Santa Anas Bring ‘Most Significant’ Fire Weather Threat in 5 Years

Dry, hot seasonal Santa Ana winds were expected to blow across Southern California beginning Thursday night, bringing with them the extreme fire danger and red flag warnings, according to federal weather officials.

windfire

Winds whip through the trees in this photo of the Santiago Canyon fire in Orange County 2007. (credit: Self-Propelled_E/flickr via Creative Commons)

Critical fire conditions — the worst in five years — were expected to begin Thursday night and last through Sunday evening for much of the region, according to the National Weather Service.

Peak winds were predicted for Friday morning and Saturday morning, with relative humidity dropping sharply into single digits.

“Historically dry fuels” and ongoing drought conditions in the region prompted concern.

“This is about as bad as it gets in many years!” the weather service’ s warning coordination meteorologist wrote in a slideshow (PDF) issued Thursday.

Gusts could reach 60 to 85 mph, and sustained winds were expected to range from 35 to 50 mph in wind-prone areas, the weather service warned.

An urgent weather message issued on Thursday afternoon said the combination of factors created the “most significant fire weather threat in the past five years.” There’s potential for “explosive” fire growth, the weather service said.

Red flag warnings were set to begin 9 p.m. Thursday and last through 6 p.m. Sunday in Los Angeles County, with the exclusion of the Antelope Valley, and Ventura County, the weather service stated.

In most of Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, a red flag warning was slated to begin 2 a.m. Friday and last through 8 p.m. Sunday.

redflagwarning

A red flag warning was issued for much of SoCal from Thursday through Sunday.

Temperatures are expected to be 5 to 15 degrees above normal while the winds persist, the weather service said.

Power outages are possible due to downed trees limbs, and visibility could be reduced due to blowing dust and smoke, the weather service said.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department issued an advisory about the weather, and the cities of Pasadena and Los Angeles said parking restrictions would be in place on narrow and winding roads.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department and the city of LA fire department both plan to increase staffing and pre-deploy resources from Thursday night through Sunday morning.

The county fire department urged residents to be alert during the hazardous weather:

  • report any sign of smoke immediately to your local fire department by dialing 911;
  • use extreme caution when operating spark or flame producing machinery in hazardous grass or brush areas;
  • have a wildfire action plan in place if you live in a brush-heavy area; and
  • report any suspicious persons or vehicles to law enforcement.