Wildfires reduce towns to ashes as ‘unprecedented’ blazes fuelled by ‘heat dome’ and 14,000 lightning strikes ravage US

WILDFIRES have reduced towns to ashes as "unprecedented" blazes fuelled by a "heat dome" and 14,000 lightning strikes ravage the United States.

The fires, which started in California on Friday after a scorching heatwave and have now spread up the West Coast, burned homes to the ground and left a path of devastation in their wake.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said this was the "largest fire season we've had in recent recorded history" as he declared a state of emergency.

He blamed the cause of the fires on "unprecedented temperatures, a heat dome, 14,000 lightning strikes over a 24-hour period and 150 million plus dead trees related to a multi-year drought".

A heat dome occurs when hot ocean air is trapped by the atmosphere, and are caused by a change in ocean temperatures.

The Creek Fire in Northern California burnt through 152,833 acres in just three days, Cal Fire said.

They reported 65 homes, businesses and other buildings have been destroyed by the blaze.

Further north, Malden, Washington was left 80 per cent destroyed, residents said, while in Oregon 80,000 people had to be urgently evacuated from their homes on Tuesday.

Forest Service regional forecaster Randy Moore warned that the fires are expected to get worse.

"The wildfire situation throughout California is dangerous and must be taken seriously," he told AP.

"Existing fires are displaying extreme fire behaviour, new fire starts are likely, weather conditions are worsening, and we simply do not have enough resources to fully fight and contain every fire."

Cal Fire said the Creek Fire had got worse in the last day due to strong winds.

In Malden, Washington, Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers spoke about the devastation the fires had caused.

"The scale of this disaster really can't be expressed in words. The fire will be extinguished, but a community has been changed for a lifetime. I just hope we don't find the fire took more than homes and buildings," he said.

"I pray everyone got out in time."

Washington commissioner of public lands Hilary Franz said that 300,000 acres of land in Washington has been burned.

In Oregon, more than 230,000 acres had been devastated, Governor Kate Brown said.

She said the state was in the middle of an "unprecedented fire event".

The Cameron Peak wildfire in Colorado left an orange haze hanging over Denver. The blaze has been burning since August 13 and has torched 96,462 acres.

It is expected to keep burning until the end of October.

California's destructive wildfires left two dead and trapped 50 hikers.

The group of hikers were eventually rescued near Lake Edison, east of San Francisco, on Tuesday night.

On Monday, the US Forest Service announced it was closing all eight national forests in Southern California in order to prevent the spread.

Two of the three largest fires in state history are burning in the San Francisco Bay Area, with high and dry winds expected in the area until today.

California is heading into what traditionally is the teeth of the wildfire season, and already it has set a record with two million acres burned this year.

The previous record was set just two years ago and included the deadliest wildfire in state history that swept through the community of Paradise and killed 85 people.

More than 14,000 firefighters are battling the blazes in California, one of which was started by a gender reveal party.

Fresno Fire Battalion Chief Tony Escobedo warned there may be more deaths.

Following a usually dry summer, California experienced a triple-digit three-day heatwave, with Pacific Gas & Electric preparing to cut power to 158,000 customers in Northern California to reduce the possibility its lines could spark new fires.

Several locations in the state experienced their hottest September day on record Sunday, while others logged their hottest temperature ever recorded.

Temperatures in Woodland Hills, about 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles, reached 121 degrees – the highest ever recorded in Los Angeles County.

Chino, about 32 miles from LA, also hit 121 degrees.

The National Weather Service office in Los Angeles described the heat as "kiln-like" as 99 percent of the state was put under an excessive heat warning or heat advisory, according to The Washington Post.

Many areas were also under fire warnings as the heat worsened ongoing wildfires in the state, and helped fuel new ones.

At least one death has been recorded due to the heat as a 41-year-old woman who was hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains died on Saturday, where temperatures surpassed 110 degrees, according to CNN.

The woman reportedly collapsed after beginning to feel sick during the hike, and paramedics on the scene were unable to revive her.

The Forest Service announced that the use of any ignition source – like campfires and gas stoves – would be prohibited on all National Forest Service lands throughout California.

Randy Moore, regional forester for the Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region that covers California, announced national forest closures and said the decision would be re-evaluated daily.

Campgrounds at all national forests in the state also were closed.

“The wildfire situation throughout California is dangerous and must be taken seriously,” Mr Moore said.

"Existing fires are displaying extreme fire behavior, new fire starts are likely, weather conditions are worsening, and we simply do not have enough resources to fully fight and contain every fire.”

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