LOS ANGELES (AP) — Firefighters on Tuesday faced worsening weather conditions that pushed flames across firebreaks in parts of inland California and chased residents out of one small community.
Along the coast, however, an evacuation order was lifted for a lengthy section in the scenic Big Sur area.
The weather change came from a high pressure system setting up over the entire West, said Mike Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento. "So in addition to the very warm temperatures we're getting, we'll also be getting a little bit of offshore wind ... which keeps the moist marine air from coming inland," he said.
Some parts of California's Central Valley were forecast to climb close to 110 degrees Tuesday, and the state's heat wave was forecast to persist into the weekend.
The agency that monitors the state's power grid said peak energy demand could approach the record set in July 2006, and it asked customers to reduce their late-afternoon power consumption.
Gusting wind during the night blew flames across fire lines in the Sequoia National Forest east of Bakersfield, damaging "some outbuildings and maybe a residence," fire information officer Barbara Dougan said Tuesday morning.
North of Sacramento, hundreds of residents were leaving the small town of Concow on Tuesday after authorities issued an immediate evacuation advisory because of shifting wind.
The blaze north of Sacramento, part of a complex of fires that had burned over more than 45 square miles, was listed as 55 percent contained.
The turn toward hot and drier weather comes as three other major forest blazes — the fire in Big Sur, the one east of Bakersfield in the southern Sierra Nevada and one above the city of Goleta west of Santa Barbara — were all less than half contained.
Although officials said the Big Sur fire was still considered very active, the U.S. Forest Service lifted a mandatory evacuation order Tuesday morning for a stretch of about 25 miles along the Pacific Coast Highway. That stretch had been included in a 31-mile section closed late last month as the huge blaze in the Los Padres National Forest crept toward the coast.
The area remains under an evacuation advisory.
The 125-square-mile Big Sur fire was 18 percent contained, said Jim Turner, spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.
The Big Sur, Goleta and Sierra Nevada fires were among some 1,780 that have charred more than 960 square miles of California in two weeks. More than 300 remain uncontained.
Most of the fires were started by lightning but several are believed to have been human-caused. Some 100 structures statewide have been destroyed and one firefighter died of a heart attack.
The 15-square-mile fire near Goleta was 35 percent contained Tuesday, mostly on its southern side near residential areas. It had destroyed four outbuildings and two firefighters suffered minor injuries.
More than 2,000 residents were allowed to return home Monday, said Roger Aceves, Goleta's mayor pro tem. However, residents of about 275 homes remained under mandatory evacuation orders Tuesday and 3,200 other homes were in areas where residents had been warned to be ready to leave.
Crews fighting the Goleta fire were not immediately facing the windier, drier weather.
"Overall, the fire has calmed down in our most populated areas," fire spokeswoman Pat Wheatley said Tuesday morning. "Right now, we have a good fog layer, which is to our advantage," but temperatures were expected to top 100 degrees in the area, she said.
Crews also faced "sundowner" winds that have been routinely gusting in the late afternoon, she said.
Some mandatory evacuation orders and warnings to be ready to leave remained in effect for scattered homes on the fire's growing western flank on the Santa Ynez Mountains in the region about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Officials for the blaze near Big Sur and the 48-square-mile fire east of Bakersfield said those blazes won't be fully controlled for at least two more weeks.