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There have already been 8,000 wildfires in California this year. A warm, dry fall forecast threatens to bring more trouble.

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 9/25/2020 Jessica Skropanic, Redding Record Searchlight
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Much of California will be at a greater-than-usual risk for fire again this week. And into mid-fall, too.

Fire weather watches are in effect for this weekend throughout most of Northern California, and meteorologists expect to issue watches for parts of Southern California next week when temperatures return to the triple digits.

Temperatures could reach 100 degrees in places along the Sacramento Valley floor and inland Southern California, and up to 110 degrees in desert regions including Palm Springs. The heat, coupled with 20-mph winds and 30-mph gusts, will drop humidity levels as low as 10% throughout most of inland Southern California, the Sacramento Valley, the Western Sierra Nevada foothills and the San Francisco Bay Area to South Santa Clara County.

a stop light that is on fire: Flames lick above vehicles on Highway 162 as the Bear Fire burns in Oroville, Calif., on Sept. 9, 2020. © Noah Berger, AP Flames lick above vehicles on Highway 162 as the Bear Fire burns in Oroville, Calif., on Sept. 9, 2020.

That dry weather could feed wildfires that are already burning  including the August Complex in Mendocino County, the SQE Complex in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Visalia and the Creek Fire near Fresno.

a close up of a map: A fire weather watch is in effect throughout Northern and Central California this weekend through Monday. © National Weather Service (NOAA) in California A fire weather watch is in effect throughout Northern and Central California this weekend through Monday.

“The outlook predicts warmer than average temperatures through November and little precipitation," said meteorologist Alex Tardy at the National Weather Service in San Diego. "(Conditions) remain critically dry and sensitive to any wildfire starting at (this) time.”

California is already dealing with an outbreak of fires sparked by dry lightning and driven by winds in a dry, hot year: More than 8,000 wildfires have burned more than 3.6 million acres, killing 26 people and destroying at least 6,700 structures.

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 Firefighters were still battling 26 major wildfires throughout the state on Thursday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The Weather Service this week issued a fire weather watch for much of northern and central California, and conditions will likely only worsen next week, said warning coordination meteorologist Brian Garcia at the National Oceanic Atmospheric and Administration office in Monterey.

He expects the San Francisco Bay Area's fire weather watch to “be upgraded to a Red Flag Warning, if models continue to show gusty winds over the hills.”

This first week of fall is likely a harbinger of what is to come, said meteorologist Alex Tardy at NWS in San Diego. “The outlook predicts warmer than average temperatures through November and little precipitation. (Conditions) remain critically dry and sensitive to any wildfire starting at (this) time.”

Wildfires burned millions of acres across the West: See what that looks like.

April heatwaves, and winds — warm Santa Anas in June and winds flowing up into Northern California from the Bay Area — started to dry the state earlier than most seasons, Tardy said.

Temperatures reached 115 degrees in Escondido and 121 degrees in Chino. That heat, followed by little rain and more Santa Ana winds, caused drought expansion in the southeast part of the state this summer.

“August was the hottest (month) on record for the entire state,” Tardy said. Humidity levels dropped to all-time lows.

Now fire weather risk is extreme, and will likely stay that way this fall, he said.

Jessica Skropanic is a features reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA TODAY Network. Follow her on Twitter @RS_JSkropanic and on Facebook.

This article originally appeared on Redding Record Searchlight: There have already been 8,000 wildfires in California this year. A warm, dry fall forecast threatens to bring more trouble.

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