Heat Wave Bakes California

A spring heat wave blistered California with record temperatures Monday as firefighters kept a close eye on dry brush, power officials monitored electricity use, and residents sought refuge at beaches and in swimming pools.

Hundred-degree or greater highs were reported in coastal cities as well as through inland valleys and into the desert. Long Beach topped out only four degrees under Death Valley's 105.

The National Weather Service (search) reported 99 degrees in downtown Los Angeles, shattering the record of 91 set in 1972. Other records included 100 in Santa Maria on the central coast, 91 in San Francisco, which usually averages 65 degrees this time of year, and 93 in San Jose.

Sacramento hit 98, the capital's hottest April 26 since record-keeping began in 1849.

"I've never been to Death Valley (search), but I can imagine," said office worker Fred Konieczny, 67, perspiring in dark slacks and a long sleeve shirt as he walked through downtown Los Angeles.

A high pressure system and lack of onshore breezes contributed to the heat. Forecasters said temperatures in the 80s and 90s would continue through Tuesday, but cooler weather would return by the end of the week.

Fire danger was extremely high in Southern California, where a group of wildfires burned about 750,000 acres and destroyed more than 3,500 homes last fall.

A 2,083-acre wildfire that had threatened as many as 400 homes in southern Riverside County was contained Monday after burning for more than a day. The blaze destroyed two mobile homes and nine vehicles.

Fires also were reported in the San Bernardino Mountains (search) and along the 710 Freeway but were quickly extinguished.

Meanwhile, the state agency that manages much of the state's power grid called for a low-level alert late Sunday and asked people to limit usage of air conditioners, washers and other appliances during the peak hours of 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

People flocked to beaches. Danny Douglas, a lifeguard captain in Los Angeles County's Manhattan Beach, said it was crowded for a Monday afternoon.

"It's busy down here. People are in the water cooling off. It's a lot like summertime," he said.