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Record Heat Wave Creates 'Kiln-Like' Conditions In California

The Creek Fire burns in the Sierra National Forest on Sunday.
Marcio Jose Sanchez
The Creek Fire burns in the Sierra National Forest on Sunday.

Updated at 8:16 p.m. ET

At 121 degrees, Los Angeles County hit its highest temperature ever recorded this weekend, as the state swelters in a heat wave that has helped intensify the most devastating wildfire season California has experienced in years.

The record temperature was measured in Woodland Hills, northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

The "kiln-like" heat was exacerbated by a high-pressure system and a weak sea breeze, according to the National Weather Service.

NWS Meteorologist Dave Bruno told The New York Times that these factors "allowed basically the entire region to roast." Several other locations in the state also faced scorching temperatures.

The heat contributed to the death of a 41-year-old hiker, who died Saturday from a heat-related seizure after hiking at Tapia Park in Malibu Creek State Park for several hours, L.A. County Sheriff's officials told CNN. After her death, officials decided to close all hiking trails in the Santa Monica Mountains through Labor Day.

"Do not hike this holiday weekend, especially with dogs," Malibu Search and Rescue said.

Late Monday, the U.S. Forest Service announcedit would close eight national forests in Southern California because of the conditions.

California firefighters are currently battling dozens of active blazes that have so far consumed more than 1.8 million acres, damaged over 3,800 structures, and killed seven people. Many of the fires were caused by lightning strikes, but the El Dorado Fire in San Bernardino County was caused by "a smoke generating pyrotechnic device used during a gender reveal party," the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

That fire, which began Saturday morning, spread north and quickly consumed more than 7,000 acres. More than 500 people, 60 fire engines and six helicopters were fighting the blaze, which was only 5 percent contained by Sunday night.

2020 has now seen the most acres burned in California than any other year during the modern era, according to Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA.

But some small relief could be coming. Weakening high pressure and a stronger sea breeze will lead to "some decent cooling across the coast today," NWS Los Angeles tweeted Monday. "A little less cooling inland but it won't be nearly as oppressive as yesterday! Just one more day of heat before we get a break! We got this!"

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Matthew S. Schwartz is a reporter with NPR's news desk. Before coming to NPR, Schwartz worked as a reporter for Washington, DC, member station WAMU, where he won the national Edward R. Murrow award for feature reporting in large market radio. Previously, Schwartz worked as a technology reporter covering the intricacies of Internet regulation. In a past life, Schwartz was a Washington telecom lawyer. He got his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and his B.A. from the University of Michigan ("Go Blue!").