Extreme heat making wildfire battle tougher in Southwest US

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A tree and power pole are consumed by a wildfire near Big Bear, Calif., Tuesday, June 20, 2017. (Source: James Quigg/The Daily Press via AP). A tree and power pole are consumed by a wildfire near Big Bear, Calif., Tuesday, June 20, 2017. (Source: James Quigg/The Daily Press via AP).
Members of the Mill Creek Hot Shots prepare to battle a wildfire near Big Bear, Calif., Tuesday, June 20, 2017. (James Quigg/The Daily Press via AP). Members of the Mill Creek Hot Shots prepare to battle a wildfire near Big Bear, Calif., Tuesday, June 20, 2017. (James Quigg/The Daily Press via AP).
SONOITA, AZ (AP) -

An extreme heat wave in the Southwest U.S. is making the fight against a series of wildfires more difficult Wednesday, including one that has destroyed at least four homes in an Arizona town known for its wineries, authorities said.

Temperatures in parts of Arizona, California and Nevada soared to nearly 120 degrees this week, creating problems for firefighters. In California, two firefighters were treated for heat-related injuries as they battled a blaze in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles.

In New Mexico, authorities say a brush fire destroyed sheds and vehicles on private property and sent two residents and a firefighter to the hospital for smoke inhalation and other minor injuries.

In Arizona, about 100 firefighters battled a 2-square-mile blaze that ignited Tuesday in triple-digit temperatures in Sonoita, 45 miles southeast of Tucson. None of the wineries dotting the area was threatened.

[READ MORE: ENCINO FIRE: Evacuations lifted, residents allowed to return home]

"The heat is a major factor not only for us getting overheated but heat will rise up our embers, which will cause more fires to pick up," said Joseph De Wolf, chief of the Sonoita-Elgin Fire District.

State forestry officials said six structures were destroyed but didn't know how many were homes. De Wolf said earlier that four houses had burned. An additional 120 homes were at risk.

De Wolf said residents who have been evacuated were being escorted back to gather their livestock and other animals. He said he hoped to get people back in their homes by evening.

"The biggest challenge we have is the heat that's gonna come up this afternoon," De Wolf said.

Officials will ensure firefighters are hydrated and safe amid the heat wave, Department of Forestry and Fire Management spokeswoman Tiffany Davila said.

[RELATED: Arizona Wildefires]

The department said the cause of fire was not known but lightning strikes were reported in the area.

Residents expressed concerns about their homes and livestock at a community meeting where the local fire chief spoke. One woman nervously asked about her burros, which had gotten loose. De Wolf told her one of his team members was working on gathering them.

De Wolf said crews were focusing on setting a perimeter around the fire, which was not contained.

Firefighters across Arizona are battling about 30 blazes, making resources scarce, De Wolf said. He said he was asking Gov. Doug Ducey to help cover the financial costs of battling the fire.

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