LOS ANGELES: Firefighters struggled on Thursday (Friday in Manila) to contain infernos across the western United States as experts warned that drought-stricken California should prepare for an unusually intense wildfire season. Forest fires are a fact of life in much of California but have become far worse because of bone-dry conditions, with the Golden State gripped in its fifth year of drought. A fire in the Los Padres National Forest had expanded to two square miles (five sq km) by Thursday, making it the “largest since 2009” in the area, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Information Center told Agence France-Presse. Strong winds were hampering efforts to contain the blaze, and the operation was expected to be hindered further by near-record temperatures over the weekend in the southern half of California. Los Padres, which begins about two hours’ drive northwest of downtown Los Angeles, is popular with hikers and campers, and evacuation orders were issued in at-risk parts of the forest.