A red flag warning of critical fire danger was extended through 8 p.m. Saturday for large parts of the Southland, prompted by gusty Santa Ana winds and low humidity, with summer-like temperatures thrown in for good measure.
The warning applies to the Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area, Los Angeles County mountains, Angeles National Forest and the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys. A warning for inland Orange County and the Santa Ana mountains expired at 4 p.m.
The warnings had been scheduled to expire at 4 p.m. Friday, but the NWS extended it until 4 p.m. Saturday, and even indicated it could be stretched into Sunday, primarily due to the high winds expected.
In response to the warning, the U.S. Forest Service reported Saturday that it has “prepositioned” 27 engines, four crews, three air tankers and two “very large” air tankers in the Southern California mountains, which include Los Angeles, Riverside, Ventura and San Bernardino counties — “with more resources inbound.”
A few scattered fires were reported in the Southland at midday Saturday, including a one-acre brush fire in the area of Chaney Trail and Mount Lowe Motorway in the Angeles National Forest and a quarter-acre vegetation fire in the 25800 block of Cedarbrook in Aliso Viejo.
In Reseda, a vegetation fire threatened some structures in the 18200 block of West Elkwood Street.
Wind gusts of 30 to 50 mph were anticipated across much of the affected areas this weekend, with humidity dropping to between 8% and 15%, forecasters said.
And by early next week, wind gusts up to 60 mph are possible in valleys, and gusts to 65 mph are possible in mountains, with isolated gusts of 70-80 mph, an NWS spokesperson said at a 1 p.m. Friday briefing.
“Any time you get winds over 60 miles an hour, it’s a big concern,” the spokesperson said.
“Even though our red flag criteria includes relative humidity below 15%, if you do get winds that are strong enough, even (with) relative humidities between 20 and 30% … once you get a fire started — and our vegetation is very dry right now, we haven’t had any rain since November — and all of the fuel and vegetation are still very dry … you could still get some rapid fire spread,” the spokesperson said.
Earlier, the NWS reported that “strong high pressure aloft and moderate offshore pressure gradients will create periods of critical fire weather conditions through Saturday and possibly into Sunday.
“The highest fire weather risk will be today (Friday) across Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Winds are expected to drop off later this afternoon through the overnight hours, however the latest computer models indicate low humidities will continue through Saturday with winds increasing again early Saturday morning through afternoon,” the NWS reported.
“Some areas on Saturday may not quite reach the duration for red flag but most areas will have at least three to six hours of red flag conditions and for this reason the warning has been extended until 4 p.m. Saturday,”
According to the NWS, dry conditions will persist into Sunday, but wind speeds will likely drop below 25 mph, except for some isolated gusts. But windier conditions are expected to return early next week.
“A strong north to northeast wind event is likely sometime between Monday and Wednesday, mostly likely strongest Tuesday and Tuesday night with wind gusts as high as 80 mph or possibly even higher in some areas,” according to the NWS. “At this time it appears humidities will be too high for red flag conditions but damaging winds are possible, especially across Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.”
On Saturday, Palmdale tied a record-high temperature from 1975, hitting 76 degrees, according to the NWS.
On Friday, new heat records were set in Los Angeles and Long Beach as Santa Ana winds continued battering parts of the Southland, coupling with low humidity. Downtown L.A. reached 86 degrees, breaking the record of 85 set in 2014, according to the NWS. Long Beach hit 90 degrees, topping the daily record of 89 set in 1976.
Temperatures were expected to remain above average Saturday, with a high of 88 expected in downtown Los Angeles and 85 in Anaheim.
As of 1 p.m. Saturday, Southern California Edison was weighing the possibility of so-called Public Safety Power Shutoffs for 61,377 customers in Los Angeles County and 17,796 in Orange County. According to the utility’s website, 63 customers were under power shutoffs on Saturday. Later that night, the city of Malibu tweeted that SCE was considering shutting off power in an area near Point Dume.
SCE instituted the PSPS policy to prevent downed power lines from possibly sparking a wildfire.