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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

California wildfire jumps major highway as blaze swells to 13,400 acres

Firefighters from Los Padres National Forest monitor the Alisal Fire as it moves into Refugio Canyon, California, on Tuesday. Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

About 100 Central California properties and a shuttered oil refinery were under threat overnight from a rapidly growing wildfire that forced the closure of a major highway near Santa Barbara, per the Los Angeles Times.

The big picture: The Alisal Fire that ignited near the Alisal Reservoir on Monday has grown to 13,400 acres with 5% containment, officials said. Nearly 800 firefighters are now battling the wind-driven blaze that caused thousands of people to evacuate.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Alabama's new congressional map rejected by federal judges

The Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Federal judges on Monday night blocked Alabama's newly drawn congressional map and ordered the Republican-led State Legislature to create a new one that includes two districts, rather than the planned one.

Why it matters: "Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress," the panel of three judges wrote in their ruling.