California struggles with high heat, wildfires, storms

CalFire firefighter Bo Santiago lights a backfire as the Rocky fire burns near Clearlake, Calif. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson, File)

  LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Wildfires burned amid a week of triple-digit temperatures across California, while some sections of the state saw sudden thunderstorms and flash floods that left one hiker dead.

   High temperatures were expected from Sacramento to San Bernardino, Fresno to Fullerton in a heatwave forecast to last through Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

   Wildfires continued to plague the state as dozens of people were driven from their homes Tuesday night in Fullerton when a blaze along the Los Angeles and Orange County border broke out on ridges above well-populated neighborhoods. 

   But residents of the approximately 40 homes were allowed to return after a heavy air attack tamed most of the flames. It was 95 percent contained after growing to some 80 acres, and firefighters were expected to deal with hot spots into Wednesday, Fullerton fire Deputy Chief Julie Kunze said.

   In some places, thunderstorms were an even bigger problem than heat. Southern California's inland mountains and deserts were hit with flash flooding in the form of short but heavy bursts of rain, lightning and even some hail due to remnant moisture from Hurricane Linda in the Pacific off Mexico.

   A man in his 20s was killed after he got caught up in a debris flow in the Forest Falls area of the San Bernardino National Forest, authorities said.

   An off-duty sheriff's deputy was able to save a young woman hiking with the man before he was swept away, San Bernardino County fire spokesman Chris Prater told KABC-TV.

   In Tuolumne County near Yosemite National Park, where temperatures in the upper 90s are expected Wednesday, a firefighter was injured and a home and two outbuildings were destroyed Tuesday when two fires combined in the Cedar Grove area, state fire spokeswoman Lisa Williams said. She had no information on the firefighter's condition.

   Three educational camps and several homes in the area were under evacuation orders.

   The fire burning about 20 miles northeast of Sonora has consumed 100 acres and it is 20 percent contained.

   The cause of the fire has not been determined but it doesn't take much to spark a blaze because conditions are so dry this time of year, state fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

   "Most of the damaging fires happen in September and October, not during the summer months," Berlant said.

   Nearby, a wildfire above Yosemite Valley that began Monday grew to 500 acres, sending plumes of smoke visible throughout the park, Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said.

   About 60 firefighters, six air tankers, and three helicopters are in the area fighting the blaze. Additional resources will arrive in the park Wednesday, he said.

   Trails on the north rim of Yosemite Valley south of the Tioga Road and east of Yosemite Creek are closed, Gediman said.

   In Fresno County, authorities are advising more residents to be ready to evacuate as a stubborn wildfire spreads.

   The Fresno Bee reports the fire that was sparked by lightning on July 31 has charred about 153 square miles. It is 31 percent contained.

   Around the state, excessive heat warnings were issued into Thursday night in many areas, especially the valleys and lower mountain elevations.

   Wednesday and Thursday will likely be the hottest days before cooling sets in during the weekend, forecasters said.