Fire crews were on high alert Sunday as they prepared for Santa Ana winds so strong, they’re expected to bring the most critical fire weather conditions to Southern California this year.
The combination of expected damaging winds, low humidities and dry vegetation threatens to ignite new wildfires, with winds expected to intensify overnight, the National Weather Service said Sunday.
The Los Angeles County Fire department increased its staffing and pre-deployment of resources throughout Los Angeles County, bracing for what forecasters described as a “particularly dangerous situation” for the county’s mountains between 2 p.m. and 11 p.m. Monday.
“Extreme” Santa Ana wind gusts up to 50 to 60 mph are expected in canyon and mountain areas Sunday night, fire officials said. Peak gusts of 80 mph are possible in the mountains.
A red flag warning is in effect through 6 p.m. Tuesday.
“Strong Santa Ana winds will develop overnight over the LA/Ventura mountains and filter into the valleys and coastal areas by early Monday morning,”NWS said.
The northeasterly winds may knock down trees and power lines that could spark fast-moving fires, forecasters said.
Southern California Edison was considering shutting power to more than 71,000 customers, most of them in L.A., San Bernardino, Ventura and Orange counties starting Monday, according to the utility’s website.
“We’re prepositioning strike teams through the east, central and north region of the county, as well as state resources, OES, just in case there is a [fire] start so that we can be ahead of it,” L.A. County Fire Capt. Mike Bolding said. “That’s going to be anywhere from Santa Clarita, Agoura, Calabasas, along the coast, San Gabriel and Lancaster, Palmdale strip.”
Firefighters were also sent from Fresno to the San Bernardino area to prepare for the red flag warnings in the region.
Cal Fire officials said the agency routinely moves crews and equipment to prepare for high fire danger events and red flag warnings.
Much of California was under red flag warnings Sunday and across the state, over 5,000 firefighters were battling 20 wildfires.
Cal Fire urged residents to use extreme caution outdoors to avoid accidentally sparking a wildfire.
People should call 911 immediately if they see any smoke or flames, L.A. County Fire officials said.
“We urge the public to have a plan — especially if you live in the wildland urban interface,” Bolding said.
Information on how to prepare for evacuation orders can be found on the fire department’s website.