Southern California Heat Wave Breaks Records

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LOS ANGELES — Southern California roasted Thursday in a record-breaking, end-of-spring heat wave that sent temperatures soaring past 100 degrees in many areas, posing hazards for anyone who ventured outside.

Triple-digit highs spread from the desert _ 118 at aptly named Thermal and 116 in Palm Springs _ to the Los Angles area, including a record 109 at Woodland Hills, topping the 1989 mark of 105, according to the National Weather Service. Records were also set Wednesday.

Firefighters worked in extreme heat to corral small brush fires as a strong high-pressure system cooked the air from the central coast south to Los Angeles and San Diego.

At Ice Station Valencia, a rink in the broiling Santa Clarita Valley, hockey director Larry Bruyere, 55, said: "You don't mind working here on days like this."

Los Angeles County opened 42 daytime cooling centers for seniors and suggested people visit air-conditioned malls and libraries in the evenings. The National Weather Service warned people to take precautions for heat that could quickly kill children or animals left in cars, even if the windows were cracked open.

As people cranked up air conditioners, energy use in Los Angeles peaked at 5,854 megawatts Thursday, breaking records for the month of June, according to the city Department of Water and Power.

The region began to warm at the start of the week, and authorities in San Bernardino County linked the heat to the death of 77-year-old Joyce Sanders on Monday near the California-Arizona line south of Lake Havasu, Ariz.

The Arizona woman appeared to have left her car in search of her 89-year-old husband, Virgil, on a day when temperatures reached 116 degrees in the Colorado River region. Investigators believe the woman died after falling on a hillside; the pair were found by a passer-by who stopped after seeing their empty car on the road.

It was unclear why Virgil Sanders left the car. He was taken to a Phoenix-area hospital in a coma and suffering second- and third-degree burns from the sun and ground contact, according to sheriff's Sgt. Tim Smith.

"There's no foul play suspected; it's just a tragedy, is all," Smith said.

The hot air and dry brush also brought heightened wildfire risks throughout the region.

Firefighters and air crews Thursday battled a 50-acre brush fire after a car ran off the road and burst into flames 70 miles east of San Diego. A man was killed, according to the California Highway Patrol.

In Ventura County, northwest of Los Angeles, a 25-acre fire burning in brush in the city of Ventura was mostly contained.

"If you've never been on a hillside fighting a fire, then you don't know what hot is," county fire spokesman Bill Nash said.

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Associated Press writer Raquel Maria Dillon contributed to this report.