As the heat wave engulfed the drought-stricken region and crews battled numerous wildfires due to the dry conditions, the organization that manages the majority of California’s electrical grid asked people to save energy in the late afternoon and evening to prevent rolling blackouts.
Cooling centers run out of city hall conference rooms and community centers provided some respite for many people without air conditioning or homes.
But untold numbers of homeless people lay on the streets in downtown Los Angeles, seeking whatever patches of shade they could find, said Andy Bales, president and CEO of the Union Rescue Mission, which helps people experiencing homelessness.
Bales said he and his staff were walking the streets twice a day to hand out water bottles. Some people barely moved, he said, opening their eyes only to look at the volunteers and grasp a cool bottle.
About 1,000 people were sheltering at the Union Rescue Mission’s three facilities in the area, he said.
The organization also found cool places to stay for others, including two mothers with children and a man who called from suburban Simi Valley, where the temperature hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday.
In Sacramento, hard-hit by the prolonged heat wave that started in Southern California and moved north over the Labor Day weekend, a high school football player collapsed. A local chain of fitness centers canceled classes, saying its air-conditioning system could not keep up.
Temperatures are forecast to remain extreme in coming days before residents get some relief during the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.
Evacuation orders remained in place in Riverside County east of Los Angeles and in Siskiyou County in the northernmost part of the state, abutting Oregon, as crews responded to deadly wildfires.
As of Wednesday morning, just 5% of the Fairview Fire in Riverside was contained after scorching 7,000 acres (2,830 hectares), according to the Riverside County Fire Department. The fire has claimed the lives of two people and injured another.
Fire crews have contained 65% of the Mill Fire in Siskiyou, where nearly 4,000 acres (1,620 hectares) have burned.
Tuesday saw an all-time high in demand and power rates as homeowners and businesses turned up their air conditioners.
The grid operator for the majority of the state, the California Independent System Operator (ISO), has canceled its warning for potential rotating outages because none were necessary as of late Tuesday.
The grid operator has been mostly concerned with the late afternoon and nighttime hours, when the sun sets and solar power is no longer accessible, while asking individuals and companies to continue conserving.
The last time the ISO instructed companies to cut power was in August 2020 for two days, during which time nearly 800,000 homes and businesses experienced disruptions that lasted somewhere between 15 minutes and two and a half hours.