Southern California breaking news and trends

Santa Ana winds bring fire danger to Southern California


Photo by Garry Knight via Flickr Creative Commons

The Santa Ana winds, which blow through in the fall, bring high fire danger because their powerful gusts can whip flames into infernos.

Low humidity and high temperatures accompanied by a seasonal blast of Santa Ana winds have been keeping Southern California fire agencies on alert.

The National Weather Service said dry, gusty winds would continue Saturday before dying down towards the end of the weekend.

Firefighters moved quickly Friday to control small brush fires across the region.

A blaze that burned through patchy brush in the Fontana area below the Cajon Pass was held to about 10 to 15 acres, said San Bernardino County fire spokesman Eric Sherwin. More than 150 firefighters were brought in from many agencies. No structures were damaged.

Division Chief John Salvate said there had been concerns the fire could reach some homes due to sustained winds of 25 mph and 35 mph and gusts of up to 50 mph earlier in the day.

In Los Angeles County, firefighters held a fire to 1 acre along a road in the Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu.
Crews successfully contained a slow-moving brush fire that spread over about 2.5 acres on a hillside in eastern San Diego County.

The Santa Ana winds, which blow through in the fall, bring high fire danger because their powerful gusts can whip flames into infernos. The Santa Anas have been involved in many of Southern California's most destructive wildfires.

The winds are spawned by surface high pressure over the interior of the West that sends a cold, dry air mass toward Southern California. The air then warms and speeds up as it descends through mountain passes and canyons and rushes toward the coast and offshore.

Forecasters said the high pressure will slowly weaken through Sunday, gradually reducing wind speeds. A high wind warning was reduced to an advisory, but forecasters said there was a slight chance of an isolated gust to 58 mph or greater in some passes and canyons.

A 66 mph gust was reported before dawn Friday, the weather service said.

State and local fire agencies had prepared for Thursday's arrival of the wind event by staffing additional fire engines and positioning them in strategic locations.

With the improving outlook, Los Angeles city and county deactivated their emergency operations centers but were continuing to monitor the situation, the county Office of Emergency Management said in a statement.


All you need to know to prepare for (and survive) a California wildfire (video)

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The out of control Station Fire burned more than 105,000 acres.

Producer Joe's list of things he would save in a fire

Joe Armstrong/KPCC

Producer Joe's list of things he would save in a fire: "(I’d grab as many of these things as I could) Sally (the best dog ever); Martin guitar; Fender guitar; Laptop;Hard drive full of pics, docs, music and everything else; Keys, Wallet, iPhone, Passport; Leatherman multi-tool; Spoon from my parent’s house; Stack of journals; Vintage postcard from Yosemite National Park; Rocks from the top of Half Dome and Mount Whitney; Scorpion belt buckle; CD copies of both my albums; Son Volt’s Trace on vinyl; Signed copy of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine given to me by my mom; My bedside clock; Custom molded earphones; Baseball cap; Scrap of paper with a girl’s phone number; Tom Waits concert ticket stub; A concert ticket stub from the night Stevie Ray Vaughan died."

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

A firefighting DC-10 plane drops fire retardant on a ridge line to protect communication towers in Palmdale, California.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

File: A Los Angeles County fire fighter monitors hot spots as he fights the Station Fire August 30, 2009 in Acton, California.

As the Santa Ana winds kick up this weekend, long-time Californians know far too well that wildfires could spring up at any moment, as fire season in our region is nearly year-long. Herewith our primer on how to prepare for — and survive — a California fire.

Go Bag: This is a pre-packed bag in which you have essential items, something you can have sitting by the door so you can simply grab it in case that evacuation order comes.

There are many more basic items than you think that you will want in your Go Bag. Pack these now in a duffle bag or backpack:

Flashlight, battery operated radio, toilet paper, batteries, whistle, hand sanitizer, dust mask, pocket knife, compass, small denominations of cash, a roll of quarters for phone calls, hiking boots or sneakers, a change of clothes,  a knit hat, a local map, water, asprin, scissors, soap, towel, lighters, food, a permanent marker, paper, duct tape, photos of family members and pets, contact phone numbers, heath insurance cards, spare set of prescription eye glasses, hearing aids, prescription medications, first aid kit, toothbrush and toothpaste, spare house and car keys.


Sepulveda fire 40 percent contained, no injuries or structure damage [Updated]


Fire near the Getty Center close to the 405 freeway on Friday.

Firefighters continue to battle the brushfire for a second day in the hills around Sepulveda Blvd. near the Getty Center Saturday. The wildfire that started Friday scorched approximate 90 acres near the 405 freeway and is about 40 percent contained according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

"Our focus is to be 100 percent," LAFD spokesman Brain Humphrey said Saturday. "But the most important thing is there were no injuries, no structure damage, and the impact to wildlife is minimal. That's amazing."

Humphrey stressed that containment estimates shouldn't be used as a bellwether statistic.

"There were no firefighter injuries. We are thrilled by that. That's the only real metric that matters," Humphrey said, adding that crews will be working throughout the weekend and they hope to have the fire fully contained by Sunday.


Williams Fire gets help from rain, risk of lightning

Williams Fire Burns In The Angeles National Forest

David McNew/Getty Images

U.S. Forest Service firefighters stand near flames at the Williams fire in the Angeles National Forest on Sept. 4, 2012 north of Glendora.

Despite Wednesday's forecast packing a possible fire-starting lightning risk, raindrops from the remainder of a tropical storm in the region could help the fight against a 3,800-acre blaze in the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles

The area, located in Angeles National Forest, began to burn on Sunday, and was 24 percent contained before the rain started. The blaze called more than 1,100 firefighters to battle in the treacherous terrain -- at least seven responders have sustained injuries.

The fight is currently contained in the mountains and has not moved toward nearby foothill cities. Officials expect it to be fully surrounded on Sept. 13. 

Rain and thunderstorms are possible in the region through Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. NWS says dry lightning has already set more than 50 fires in California this summer.


Dry lightning, wind predictions prompt critical fire warning through Wednesday

lightning hermosa beach

Photo by Greg Foster via Flickr Creative Commons

A "Red Flag" warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for fire danger across our heatwave hampered region.

Critical fire weather conditions could occur through 5 p.m. Wednesday for the mountains, valleys and deserts of Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

According to forecasters, thunderstorms containing little or no rainfall -- but with potential for dry lightning and wind gusts -- could occur as low pressure drops along the California coast.

Meteorologist Stuart Seto told KPCC that dry lightning strikes could fuel wildfires.

"There’s not a lot of precipitation with these storms. So it’s like regular lightning, but the precipitation isn’t there to put out the fires. And also with these thunderstorms, there could be gusty outflow winds. And that’s mainly winds that are coming out of thunderstorms that could enhance some of the fires."