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The Beckwourth Complex fire in Northern California. Photo: Ty ONeil/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Wildfires were burning across more than 768,000 acres of land in 12 western U.S. states, and over 500,000 acres in Canada on Sunday amid another searing heat wave.

Driving the news: Many of the wildfires started when a severe heat wave erupted in June and lasted into July, first hitting southwestern British Columbia before migrating eastward.

  • The severity of the extreme weather event has been pinned on human-caused global warming, and climate change is also heightening the risk of wildfires in the U.S..
  • The typical heart of the Canadian wildfire season doesn't arrive until August, when vegetation is at its driest, but the heat has sped that process along.

By the numbers: Firefighters were battling 55 large fires across the U.S. on Sunday — including 11 in Arizona, 10 in Idaho, nine in Montana, six in California and five in Oregon, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

  • In Canada, firefighters were responding to more than 300 active wildfires, including 60 new ones, per the CBC.

What's happening: Evacuation orders and warnings were issued in states including California, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, as well as British Columbia. Smoke from the fires was bringing hazy skies to large parts of the western and central U.S.

  • The biggest wildfire to hit the U.S. so far this year, the Beckwourth Complex fire, near California's border with Nevada, forced the temporary closure of U.S. Highway 395 late Saturday.
  • The blaze, the combination of two fires sparked by lightning in the Plumas National Forest, expanded by a third to 134 square miles Sunday — though firefighters working in heat topping 100°F managed to increase containment to 20%, AP notes.
  • The Bootleg fire that's burning out of control across 143,600 acres in Oregon knocked out transmission lines that supply California with power over the weekend.
  • In Arizona, two firefighters died on Saturday when their aircraft crashed while responding to a wildfire in Mohave County, per a Bureau of Land Management statement.

Of note: Canada's Interagency Forest Fire Center elevated its readiness level to 5 — the top of its scale, noting "active agencies may take emergency measures to sustain incident operations."

  • The move reflects the enormity of the firefighting challenges facing the heavily forested nation, with dozens of fires burning from temperate rainforests to the boreal region ringing the Arctic.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper

Updated Jul 11, 2021 - Science

Heat wave engulfs the West as Death Valley hits 130 degrees

The Beckwourth Complex fire continues to burn through the night. Photo: Ty ONeil/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

About 30 million people are under excessive heat warnings or advisories as a heat wave sweeps the Western United States, bringing more record-high temperatures on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

Why it matters: The heat wave comes after some regions in the Pacific Northwest saw temperature records shattered last month, with the same "heat dome" weather pattern that is engulfing the West now. Human-caused climate change has exacerbated the frequency, severity and intensity of these extreme heat events.

Death Valley hits 130°F as 30 million under heat alerts across the West

People cool off in the Whitewater River in Whitewater, California. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

More than 30 million Americans were under excessive heat warnings or advisories across the West on Saturday, as forecasters warned of more record high temperatures.

Of note: McCarran International Airport tied Las Vegas' all-time record highest temperature of 117°F on Saturday evening, per a National Weather Service statement. Flights were canceled at the airport Friday as the temperature hit 116°F.

Heat wave becomes challenge for Oregon, Washington vineyards

Vineyard in the Columbia River Gorge in Washington state. Photo: Don & Melinda Crawford/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The heat wave that ravaged the Pacific Northwest signaled trouble for winemakers in Oregon and Washington, who fear the high temperatures could return and spur dangerous wildfires, AP reports.

Driving the news: The grapes suffered little, if any, damage in June, when temperatures hit 120 degrees Fahrenheit. "Earlier or later in the growing season, it could have been disastrous," AP writes. Wineries in the Pacific Northwest intend to shield their crops from being toasted.