Record-breaking temperatures, gusty Santa Ana winds and bone-dry conditions have Southern California bracing for a weekend of fire danger.
The National Weather Service issued a red-flag warning for a large swath of Southern California, including the mountains and valleys of Los Angeles, Ventura, San Bernardino, Orange and Riverside counties. The warning, which denotes the potential for rapid fire growth and extreme fire behavior, is in effect through 4 p.m. Saturday but could be extended into Sunday, according to the weather service.
Forecasters also were expecting red-flag conditions in Santa Barbara County above Montecito but said they’d last for only two to three hours Friday night, short of the six hours required for an official advisory to be issued.
Already by Friday morning, the wind had helped fuel two brush fires that grew to several hundred acres each.
The larger of the two broke out in the San Jacinto Mountains in Riverside County at about 1:15 a.m. Friday, burning through stands of pine trees and prompting an evacuation order for the community of Mountain Center.
By 6:30 a.m., the Bonita fire had grown to 600 acres and was about 5% contained, said April Newman, public information officer for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the Riverside County Fire Department.
“The wind definitely poses a challenge for us, especially with the Santa Anas and the red-flag warning that we have for the day,” Newman said. “That’s on top of the dry brush from the lack of waterfall that we’ve had this season.”
Wind gusts in the area of the fire could peak Saturday at 30 to 35 mph, said Bruno Rodriguez, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego.
Winds were expected