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Red-flag warnings, Santa Ana winds put firefighters on high alert

A red-flag warning is forecast Sunday as powerful, dry Santa Ana winds are expected across the Southland.
May 10, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
The National Weather Service issued a red-flag warning Sunday for the Los Angeles County mountains and foothills due to high temperatures, gusty Santa Ana winds and low humidity.

The California Highway Patrol issued a wind advisory for the 110 Freeway from the 5 Freeway to the Ventura County Line around 10:30 p.m. Motorists were urged to drive with caution in the area.

Wind advisories were also posted at 3 p.m. Saturday for the first gusty winds in the mountains in the Interstate 5 area, with advisories escalating to red-flag warning levels across Los Angeles County by 6 a.m. Sunday.

A red-flag warning means that critical fire weather conditions are expected. Along with the weather, fuels such as dry brush could create an extremely dangerous combination for a wildfire.

Gusts are expected to reach 65 mph in the local mountains and valleys Sunday, while temperatures in some areas will top 100 degrees.

The hazardous conditions are being brought by a trough of low pressure, followed by a ridge of high pressure, moving in from the Pacific.

"What we're heading into is what we call brush critical weather," said Los Angeles City Fire Department's Chief James Featherstone. "We expect hot dry, potentially volatile situation through Monday."

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Fire departments in Ventura and Los Angeles counties are beefing up their staff and bringing on more engines in preparation.

"Starting tomorrow, we'll have additional water tenders on and additional overheaded positions that can come in and fill an assignment," said Bo Reynolds of the Ventura County Fire Department. "So if we do get a fire, they can come and we can staff that fire."

With the drought, fire officials say the brush is dry and brittle. If a fire were to ignite under Sunday's expected conditions, things could get out of hand quickly.

"You look at last year in the Springs Fire, where that fire grew to thousands of acres very quickly. So continuing on a year later, we're still in a drought so we're looking at what you basically saw last year, erratic fire behavior, rapid rates to spread, and long range spotting," said Reynolds.

A high wind advisory is already in effect for the mountains and valleys. With the high temperatures expected Sunday, fire officials urge the public to be extra careful if you are planning a Mother's Day BBQ.

"It is really important that the citizens that are partners in the community make sure they have the proper brush clearance, make sure if they see anything, they call 911 right away, smell smoke or certainly any fire, they let us know right away," said Featherstone.

CNS contributed to this report.

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