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Firefighters gear up for hot, dry week

Triple-digit temperatures, low humidity, northeast wind create fire danger

Posted: September 20, 2009 10:07 p.m.
Updated: September 21, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Dry winds from the northeast paired with a blazing heat wave this week create prime conditions for fires in the Santa Clarita Valley, weather and fire experts said.

To prepare, the Los Angeles County Fire Department added 18 additional firemen on its engines, five additional patrol vehicles and six additional water-tender vehicles to local stations over the weekend.

"Triple-digit heat is expected across the valleys, mountains and deserts," said weather specialist Stuart Seto of the National Weather Service in Oxnard. "People should be prepared to make plans for Tuesday through Thursday for the heat wave."

Newhall temperatures are expected to reach 102 degrees Tuesday and 103 degrees Wednesday and Thursday, Seto said.

Dry winds this week are expected to drop the humidity, creating a fire danger.

As of late Sunday night, the weather service has scheduled a red flag warning for 4 a.m. Tuesday through 6 p.m. Wednesday due to the heat, low relative humidity and gusty northeast winds.

"The hot air tends to dry out the fuel a little bit more, and if you have winds along with fire, that precipitates erratic burn behavior," said Los Angeles County fire Inspector Frederic Stowers.

He advised Santa Clarita Valley residents to take precautionary steps to prevent brush fires during the heat wave, such as clearing brush and removing unnecessary items around their homes.

They should also make sure their vehicles are in working order, he said, as broken or overheated cars can create sparks or catch fire, which can spread to dry brush.

This week's heat originates from offshore winds that do not quite reach Santa Ana wind criteria - they aren't widespread, nor do they have speeds of at least 25 miles per hour, Seto said.

Offshore winds generally originate from the ocean, travel over the mountains and settle into the valleys, Seto said. As they sink to lower elevations, the winds add heat to the air and lower the humidity, he added.

While the winds are not expected to reach Santa Ana scope and speed, College of the Canyons meteorology instructor John Makevich said it is possible they may reach such levels locally.

"As the winds funnel through the canyons ... they can become Santa Ana winds," Makevich said.

Makevich said the winds are less of a risk to areas of the Angeles National Forest already burned in the Station Fire.

"The biggest risk would be for fires to pick up in other areas," he said.

As temperatures approach record levels, Seto said people need to plan their activities in advance.

"Drink water, wear suncreen and (wear) light-colored clothing," Seto said. "Try to be somewhere cool, like libraries."

He also advised people to exercise only in the morning and remain hydrated to prevent heat-stress injury such as heat stroke.


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