Gusty winds elevate fire dangers across Southern California


Spring is almost here, but with rising temperatures and low humidity, it feels more like summer. Add high winds, and you have the makings for a high fire danger.

A red flag warning was issued for many parts of the Southland Wednesday, but all warnings expired at 6 p.m. Areas under red flag warnings were told to expect the humidity level in single digits and 35 mph sustained winds and gusts around 50 mph.

The wind howled through the bone-dry brush in Fontana, raising wildfire concerns. Extra crews are on hand in case anything were to ignite.

"We've put extra personnel on fire engines, extra crews on standby and bulldozer crews in anticipation of any kind of fire that might pop up in the area," said Christopher Prater, a spokesperson for the San Bernardino County Fire Department.

The San Bernardino County inmate firefighters cut a fire line in the hills above Fontana and cleared brush. Residents are also asked to be prepared and to refrain from lighting fires outdoors.

In the more rural areas of the Inland Empire, homeowners, like Ed Horn of Devore, are fully aware of the importance of defensible space.

"Further away from where you have any fuel for the fire, the better off your home is," said Horn.

Not even last week's heavy rains will help reduce the high fire danger.

"First of all, we haven't had rain in so long that the ground was so hard that it really didn't do any good," said Horn.

Windy conditions will also act as a blow dryer, whisking away any moisture.

"So now, with this wind event that we have, what it's going to do is dry out those fuels and make them more susceptible to ignition from any kind of heat or flame," said Prater.

In addition to heightening wildfire concerns, the winds are also making for treacherous driving conditions, particularly for high-profile vehicles.

The strongest gusts are in mountain passes, making driving dangerous, especially for big rigs and anyone else driving next to them. Drivers were urged to proceed with caution.

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