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L.A. County on Fire Weather Watch

October 11, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Fire officials were on high alert on Saturday as a fire weather watch kicked in.The return of the Santa Ana winds has already caused fire crews to spring into action.

One year ago this month, similar fire-ripe conditions created devastating wildfires in Southern California. So, fire officials are doing what they can to prevent that from happening again this year.

The Santa Ana winds fueled a fire in Leona Valley, just west of Palmdale. The dry brush sizzled in the raging flames. For Los Angeles County firefighters, it was little more than a dress rehearsal for what could be coming in the next few days.

"We have Santa Ana conditions right now ... mild. Tomorrow we expect it to get much more severe. And, when that happens the potential for fire ignition and for fire spread goes up dramatically," said Battalion Chief Michael Singer, Los Angeles County Fire Department.

With strong winds blowing across the Southland, fire agencies will be on watch this weekend. That watch could turn into a warning by early Monday morning. Extra strike teams, dozens more engines and 200 additional personnel are on standby.

"The whole reason why we do that is so that we can get to these fires very quickly, get the equipment on it and get the fire knocked down in short order. It might go 5-10 acres, that OK ... 500 or 5,000, that's not so good," said Singer.

It was the rapid response by fire crews Saturday afternoon that helped knock down one fire before any real damage was done. Crews attacked from the ground and the air, leaving only 10 acres burned.

"The fire moved very fast, had a little bit of wind pushed behind it. If we didn't have units deployed like we had, for this particular incident, we would have been off to the races here," said Battalion Chief Jim Kross, Los Angeles County Fire Department.

For residents in the Santa Clarita Valley, the memories of last year's fire season are still fresh.

"We got home and people were going out and we were coming in. It looked like we were ... I quote 'Independence Day' ... We're the only ones trying to get into hell when everybody was trying to get out," said Ed Reynolds, a Santa Clarita resident.

Fire officials say anyone living in a fire danger zone should be careful when using anything mechanical outdoors that may cause a spark.

Officials are also asking the public to be on the lookout for anything suspicious because many of brush fires are caused by arson. So, if you see anything suspicious call the Sheriff's Department.

 

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