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LA fire crews monitor high winds overnight

October 25, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
As winds kick up overnight, fire crews around Los Angeles are monitoring conditions in what is the season's first wind event.Firefighters quickly put out flames that raced up a hillside off Soledad Canyon Road in Santa Clarita on Thursday during a red flag warning. Just before 2 p.m., The fire broke out near the Santa Clarita Metrolink station just before 2 p.m. Firefighters battled the fire from the ground and from the air. A quick response prevented the wind-driven fire from spreading.

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The fire was out in about an hour. It did not threaten any structures. Los Angeles County Fire officials said extra resources were brought in from Los Angeles County and the Angeles National Forest, and that helped get the flames out swiftly.

"The augmented staffing we had up here today allowed us to get on it," said Los Angeles County Fire Asst. Chief Bill Niccum. "We're well-vested in our aircraft program. They were able to get in to it, take the heat out of it and allow our ground crews to get around it."

Although the fire was out, crews continued to monitor and check for hot spots throughout the afternoon.

A nearby daycare quickly evacuated its children when the fire broke out. Parents were immediately notified to pick up their children.

Metrolink train service was affected during the blaze but was running again with some delays into the Antelope Valley by 4 p.m.

The Santa Ana winds, coupled with dry conditions, have put Southern California fire officials on high alert. With enough fuel to ignite a major fire in canyon communities, L.A. County firefighters have mobilized for a red-flag warning and for what they say is the first extreme wind event of fire season.

L.A. County Fire Chief Anthony Marrone said they have additional resources on hand.

"We have strike teams in the Malibu area, out here in Santa Clarita, also in the foothills of La Canada Flintridge," he said.

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The strong gusts may be to blame for toppled trees and power outages in some areas. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said Thursday that about 4,000 customers in the Silver Lake and Los Feliz areas lost power. The wind is also being blamed for knocking down a tree overnight on the 1000 block of Sunnyvale way in Beverly Hills.

The winds calmed in the late morning hours, but they are expected to strengthen again at night and into Friday. High wind warnings are expected across parts of the Southland, including Los Angeles and Ventura counties, as well as the Inland Empire. Expect peak winds through the mountain passes and canyons, with gusts up to 65 mph.

Electronic signs warned drivers in the Newhall Pass to take it slow due to the high winds. Parking restrictions will also go into effect on some narrow hillside roads so that fire crews can get through if necessary.

Fire authorities are asking the public to be very careful while the fire danger is high.

"No smoking in fire areas, no open camp fires," Marrone said. "If you see smoke, report it immediately to 911"

Because most fires are caused by humans, Cal-Fire says it is people who need to be extra careful in red flag conditions.

"Think about what you're doing in the wild lands," said Cal-Fire Battalion Chief Julie Hutchinson. "If you're welding and there are 20 to 30 mile an hour winds, you shouldn't be outside welding, even if you're not real close to the brush and vegetation, you want to take extra caution in everything you do."

With weather conditions expected to deteriorate, Cal-Fire is at peak staffing levels to be ready just in case.

"We've been watching this weather pattern for the past few days, so we have already enhanced our staffing so we can keep those fires small if anything gets started," said Hutchinson.


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