Short Lull in Winds Expected to Aid Firefighters Before Fierce Santa Anas Return Sunday
Exhausted firefighters working in Los Angeles and Ventura counties are hoping that a lull in the winds Friday night and Saturday will give crews time to catch rest and increase containment on the 55-square-mile Woolsey Fire.
But any reprieve is likely to be brief, with Santa Ana winds expected to increase Sunday morning.
A red flag warning for the region has been extended through Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service announced.
Firefighters want to increase their perimeter control on Saturday, Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby said Friday afternoon.
But with another wind event coming, Osby said, “there’s not going to be any relief in relation to this firefight.”
Conditions have already been challenging as crews pass the 48-hour mark on their shifts, and other resources in California are committed to the even more massive – and deadly – Camp Fire in Butte County.
Two-thirds of Los Angeles County firefighters are working the Woolsey Fire and Hill Fire, which was holding at 6,000 acres Friday. The two fires broke out around the same time, but the Woolsey Fire exploded Friday while the Hill Fire slowed as it burned into the area scorched by the 2013 Springs Fire.
Firefighters had hoped the keep the Woolsey Fire on the north side of the 101 Freeway, but it jumped the shut-down roadway in three different locations before dawn Friday. At that time, winds were at 30 mph with gusts 40 to 50 mph, Osby said.
In the afternoon hours Friday, winds gusted up to 49 mph in the peaks of the Santa Monica Mountains, National Weather Service data showed.
Overnight, northeast winds will drop to 8 to 15 mph with gusts up to 25 mph Saturday morning.
By Saturday afternoon and evening, winds are expected to transition to west and southwest, then reverse course again and come from the northeast late Saturday night. Through Sunday, northeast winds will gust up to 40 mph.
The strongest winds are expected Sunday to Monday, gusting even up to 55 mph, and diminishing Tuesday.
Humidity is also largely in the single digits. Federal forecasters call this “critical fire weather,” meaning conditions can be dangerous for firefighters and fire can spread quickly.
“Extreme concerns linger” for Southern California, the weather service said.
The area where the fires are burning should see highs in the upper 70s to low 80s for the next few days, with overnight lows in the low 50s.