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Weather conditions may fuel wildfires

September 20, 2009 6:49:52 PM PDT
A red flag warning has already been issued for some areas beginning midnight Monday.Fire crews remain posted in Mt. Wilson as this is an area of serious concern should that massive Station Fire come roaring back to life.

A precision drop was launched on the ridges around Mt. Wilson as a precautionary aerial assault before the weather takes a turn for the worse.

"It is a very serious threat both to the forest and the structures here," says Stan Bercovitz of the U.S. Forest Service.

Bone-dry winds are expected to blow into southern California, dropping the humidity and raising the temperature. With the massive Station Fire still burning, officials aren't taking any chances.

Three air tankers have been laying down another line of fire retardant around the observatory and expensive communication, radio and TV towers. Four helicopters targeting potential trouble spots in the steep and narrow canyons dropped 80,000 gallons of water.

A review of the area with infrared cameras shows dangerous hotspots still smoldering in many areas. "It's not unusual for a fire to go into routes underground and for it to be in old and large fuels which can burn and smolder for a long time and without really being noticed," says Bercovits.

"Once the humidity drops and the winds pick up and the temperature increases, they come to life," he adds. Firefighters in Temecula face the same challenge as they work to contain a blaze burning near Vale Lake. The fire, which erupted Saturday afternoon, has charred nearly 350 acres and destroyed 12 structures including several homes.

"The fire was raging up this hill, and raging over those hills, and there were 50-foot flames coming up in the air," says fire victim John Montiel.

Officials expect to have that Temecula blaze fully contained by late Sunday evening, but as for the stubborn Station Fire, it still stands at 93 percent contained with full containment not expected until Tuesday, but it will all depend on mother nature.

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