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Extra firefighters staffed as Santa Ana gusts increase fire danger

Posted: October 27, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 27, 2012 2:00 a.m.

High winds blew through the Santa Clarita Valley and other areas of Los Angeles and Ventura counties Friday as Santa Ana winds continue to challenge firefighters.

Special deployment of extra Fire Department resources during Santa Ana wind conditions helped firefighters quickly gain the upper hand on two small fires Friday and a 5-acre blaze Thursday in the Santa Clarita Valley, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials said.

The Fire Department usually calls in additional resources from September to December to expand its ability to fight fires during the traditional Santa Ana season, said spokeswoman Stephanie English.

Among those resources are 17 aircraft contracted for about $5.2 million for the three- to four-month period.

The county also contracts for the use of two Super Scoopers and a sky crane, all of which were deployed to Thursday’s fire on Soledad Canyon Road and Gladding Way.

In addition to aircraft, the department also increases its staffing levels during Santa Ana winds. English said the department added a fourth firefighter to engines countywide Friday, including to the 19 engines that are assigned to the area in and around the Santa Clarita Valley.

“We purposely increased our staffing because we knew the Santa Anas were coming,” English said. “We knew what the threat was.”

The Santa Ana winds pose a special danger because their powerful gusts can whip flames into infernos.

The winds are spawned by surface high pressure over the interior of the West that sends a cold, dry air mass rotating clockwise toward Southern California.

The air warms and speeds up as it descends through mountain passes and canyons and rushes toward the coast and offshore.

The National Weather Service said the high pressure that has driven this week’s Santa Anas will slowly weaken through Sunday, gradually reducing wind speeds.

The red flag warning called for the Santa Clarita Valley was due to be lifted around 6 p.m. Friday.

A high-wind warning was reduced to an advisory Friday, but forecasters said there was a slight chance of an isolated gust to 58 mph or greater in some passes and canyons.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report



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