As if record heat wasn’t bad enough, ‘early season’ Santa Ana winds to return as wildfires burn in SoCal

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Santa Ana winds are expected to hit Los Angeles and Ventura counties on Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing critical conditions to the region as it also faces extreme heat and growing wildfires.

A red flag warning has been issued for noon Tuesday through 8 p.m. Wednesday for the mountain and valley areas of the two counties due to “early season” gusty Santa Ana winds and low humidity, according to the National Weather Service.

The winds follow a three-day heat wave that brought record triple-digit temperatures to much of California during Labor Day weekend.

“Fuels after this historic heat wave will be at critical levels as we enter into the Santa Ana wind event,” the weather service warned.

The region is already grappling with the Bobcat Fire north of Azusa and the El Dorado Fire near Yucaipa, and Santa Ana flare-ups could pose serious danger to residents, according to an incident commander on the Bobcat Fire.

“The situation that we have right now is a life-threatening situation with the weather forecasts that we have for the next three days,” Steve Goldman of the Eastern Area Incident Management Team said Monday afternoon.

Santa Ana conditions could potentially threaten Azusa, Bradbury, Arcadia and Sierra Madre in addition to Monrovia and Duarte, which are already close to the Bobcat Fire, Goldman said.

“Because of the rate of spread of a fire like that — they’re all going to be in a warning or in an evacuation mode if you get a strong Santa Ana push to that fire,” he said.

The weather service warned the winds could fan the flames of new blazes as well.

“This is a particularly dangerous period for new fires given the hot, dry, and windy conditions,” the agency said. “Fuel moisture conditions are very low at this time of the year and rapid fire spread will be possible.”

Meanwhile, Los Angeles County officials warned of poor air quality caused by smoke and ash from the Bobcat Fire Monday, and nearly half of the state’s national forests temporarily closed due to the mixture of extreme heat and dangerous fire conditions.

A red flag warning is already in place until 10 p.m. Monday in L.A. and Ventura counties, including near the 5 Freeway corridor. The southern coast and mountains of Santa Barbara were also under the Monday advisory.

Riverside, San Bernardino and inland Orange counties also face red flag warnings Tuesday and Wednesday.

California has already seen more than 2 million acres burn so far in 2020 — more than any year on record, and with the traditional fall fire season still to come.

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