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West sizzles through heat wave topping 100
High temperature, little rain raise wildfire fears
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    LOS ANGELES - A heat wave sizzling across the West showed little sign of letting up Thursday, with Las Vegas forecast to tie a record high and even northern Idaho expected to top 100 degrees.

"You can become dehydrated really quick before you know it. You step outside and, 'wow,'" said Charlie Schlott, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Las Vegas.

In Las Vegas, the temperature reached 100 by 9 a.m., well on its way to the forecast record high for the day of 116, according to the National Weather Service. The mercury last reached 116 on the date in 1985.

Near-record highs were also forecast for Southern California, where the mercury was expected to top 115 in the desert. Thursday was expected to be the hottest day of the year so far in northeastern Oregon, with temperatures forecast to hit 107 in Hermiston and Pendleton.

A high of 101 was forecast in Spokane, Wash., and nearby Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, which would exceed the record of 100 set in 1975. Friday's forecast didn't hold much relief from the nearly weeklong heat wave, either.

In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered the opening of state cooling centers in 13 counties, and the operator of the statewide power grid ask Californians to try to conserve energy to avoid brownouts.

The high temperatures, combined with an extremely dry winter, also worried wildfire crews across the West.

Three firefighters suffered heat exhaustion while battling a 700-acre wildfire that broke out Wednesday northwest of Santa Barbara, said Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. Craig Vanderzwaag.

Moisture levels in some of the largest logs east of the Cascade Range have dropped to what typically is seen in the hottest days of August, U.S. Forest Service officials said.

"We're headed toward a long, hard fire season, the way it looks. The public needs to be prepared for it," said Steve Rawlings, fire management officer for the Colville National Forest in Washington. "We've slid into fire season without people making a big issue about it."

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