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Originally published June 27, 2013 at 8:54 PM | Page modified June 29, 2013 at 1:59 AM

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Summer heat wave to blast through early

Hot weather is spreading across the Western U.S., and with it dangers to swimmers, elderly, pets and drying forests.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Early? Has everyone already forgotten the blast of heat we got in early May? May 5th... MORE
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Temperatures rising into the upper 80s or low 90s in the next few days — hot enough to wither some Puget Sound-area residents — would likely be a welcome relief elsewhere, as a vast high-pressure system spreads across much of the Western U.S.

The National Weather Service is calling this one of the earliest recorded heat waves in the past 120 years, with temperatures hitting levels that usually aren’t seen until August, if at all.

Consider 128 degrees in Death Valley, 119 in Phoenix, 111 in Fresno or, closer to home, 105 in Wenatchee and Yakima — all marks that could be reached within the next few days, according to AccuWeather.com.

In some areas, high temperatures are expected to rise as much as 30 degrees in a few days, as burning-hot summer weather arrives with a bang.

Emergency agencies have warned of excessive heat in areas through the Southwest and as far north as Montana. Drivers are urged to carry extra water. People susceptible to heat are advised to stay indoors. Residents are urged to check on elderly or vulnerable neighbors.

In Washington, travelers headed across the Cascade passes should be prepared for hot weather, as temperatures above 100 are likely to be common east of the mountains.

A recent rainy stretch that continued into Thursday has held fire danger at a low level so far in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, said forest spokeswoman Robin DeMario.

“But if we now get a stretch of hot, dry days, that moisture will evaporate really quickly,” she said.

In King County, boaters, kayakers and swimmers are warned that even though the air will be warm, streams and lakes fed by melted snow will still be cold, and pose a variety of hazards. Sheriff John Urquhart said people who plan to be out on the waterways should avoid alcohol and wear life jackets.

In the Puget Sound area, the hottest day in the near future could be Tuesday, with the National Weather Service forecasting a high of 89 at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and 90 in some areas, including Olympia.

Looking farther ahead, the forecast has a mixed message for fireworks-watchers: The SeaTac forecast for Thursday, Independence Day, calls for a chance of showers, but otherwise mostly sunny and a high of 74.

Elsewhere around the West, sizzling temperatures are already posing dangers, according to The Associated Press.

“It’s brutal out there,” said Leslie Carmine in Las Vegas. She’s a spokeswoman for Catholic Charities, which runs a daytime shelter for the homeless.

In heat-affected cities, police are reminding drivers not to leave babies or pets in vehicles, and temporary cooling stations are opening for the homeless and people on fixed incomes who don’t have air conditioning.

Officials said extra personnel have been added to the U.S. Border Patrol’s Search, Trauma and Rescue unit as people illegally crossing the border from Mexico into Arizona could succumb to exhaustion and dehydration.

Several bodies of immigrants have been found in the past week in Arizona. Agents in the Tucson sector rescued more than 170 people from the desert during a 30-day stretch in May and June when temperatures were not as high as those expected in the coming days.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Jack Broom: jbroom@seattletimes.com

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