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Fire danger up as high winds sweep across SoCal

October 26, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Officials are asking residents to heed red-flag warnings as high winds sweep through the local mountain areas.

A red-flag warning went into effect at 3 p.m. Wednesday for the mountain areas of Los Angeles County.

The high gusting winds blowing across the Santa Clarita Valley are combining with low humidity levels. In Southern California, that means only one thing: wildfire danger.

"The winds definitely contribute to the fires, and that's what makes it so dangerous," said Santa Clarita resident Lisa Bragoli.

Bragoli moved to Santa Clarita three years ago when much of the surrounding area was hit hard with wildfires. She said Wednesday's blustery conditions put her on edge.

"Young kids might drop cigarettes or drop something, and then the wind just carries it and takes off," said Bragoli.

But other residents said the mild summer and recent rains have given them a sense of security.

"I don't really see any real big dangers unless someone actually goes out there and maliciously starts them," said Randy Almanza.

Firefighters in the Inland Empire said they're ready for the hazard.

"We'll pre-stage equipment, we'll bring in people from all over the country, we'll bring in additional aircraft," said John Miller of the U.S. Forest Service.

If fires do break out in these dangerous red-flag conditions, Los Angeles County is ready to attack them from the air.

There is a squadron of firefighting choppers based at Van Nuys and Whiteman airports in the San Fernando Valley.

There are also the two Super Scoopers, leased from Canada that will be based in Southern California throughout the fire season.

All together, it's considered one of the most effective firefighting fleets in the world.

Heightened fire-related concerns exist in the Valleys, especially the Santa Clarita Valley.

"It seems like, always around Halloween, we do get these, and they could extend all the way into November and even December," said Capt. Mark Savage of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

A red-flag warning also was issued for the Inland Empire. Local firefighters said they will be ready for the Santa Ana winds, but there won't be any additional crews on standby because of the conditions.

Along the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, resident Darryl Edwards said the threat of a wildfire is a big concern.

"We have had the Panorama Fire, and there was another fire. It came pretty close to the backyard," said Edwards.

The wind can also be a big trouble spot for many local businesses, because outdoor equipment can topple over.

Fire officials said it's important that residents heed the warnings. They said Southern California is not completely out of fire season until there's some significant rain.

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