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California Firefighters Fighting More Than Fire out West

Record-Breaking Temperatures Could Fuel Western Wildfires 1:45

Firefighters in California were grappling with devastating conditions on Sunday as triple-digit temperatures and multiple wildfires swept over the state. In one drought-stricken forest southeast of Los Angeles, a fire had sizzled through 1,600 acres, displacing hundreds, the U.S. Forest Service said.

“Just imagine the hottest place you’ve ever been in, then add another 10 to 20 degrees,” Orlando Ramirez, a firefighter in Redlands, told NBC News.

The Silverado Fire, which broke out Friday morning in the Cleveland National Forest, was 20 percent contained with 1,500 acres charred as of Sunday, authorities said. An evacuation zone there covering more than 200 houses forced families like Jessica and Stephen Hughes to flee the area.

“It’s surreal,” the couple told NBC News when they returned. It “looked like a different planet.”

Firefighters were also battling blazes near Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe, where an estimated 2,000 acres had burned by Sunday afternoon, a CalFire spokesman said.

California is in its third year of a devastating drought, leaving bone-dry brush and chaparral that is feeding the wildfire. Evacuation orders remained in effect Sunday for 217 homes in and around Silverado Canyon, a gorge in the Santa Ana Mountains, officials said.

IN-DEPTH

-Mel H. Bailey and Hallie Jackson, with Reuters