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Winds heat up concerns about fire danger

More wind, temperatures well into the mid 90s are forecast for today

Posted: May 6, 2009 9:23 p.m.
Updated: May 7, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
High winds battered the Santa Clarita Valley on Wednesday, stoking some concern about wildfires - but not enough concern to bring about a red-flag warning, a fire spokesman said.

Winds in excess of 16 mph whipped through the SCV. They combined with high temperatures to grab the attention of Los Angeles County Fire.

"We haven't received a red-flag warning from the National Weather Service, but is definitely dry out there," Capt. Mike Brown said.

Because of weather conditions, and because of the temptation those conditions can present to arsonists, Brown said residents should remain diligent and report any suspicious behavior to county fire or the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station.

According to the National Weather Service forecast, the high heat and winds will continue at least through Thursday night. The forecast high for today is 96 degrees, with sustained winds out of the North at 16 to 18 mph and gusts as high as 25 mph.

Thursday night's forecast calls for sustained winds to increase to 22 mph. Gusts are forecast to be as high as 31 mph.

John Makevich, who teaches earth science and meteorology at College of the Canyons, said the hot, dry, windy weather is not unusual for April and May.

"During this time of year the weather is unpredictable. It's hard to define what's normal," he said. "This type of weather has happened before."

Makevich said the weather may be hot and windy enough to fan a wildfire, but the heat shouldn't discourage anyone from heading out to enjoy the weather.

"The temperatures aren't really to the point of causing heat exhaustion," he said.

As county fire officials hoped Santa Clarita could avoid a wildfire, emergency personnel in Santa Barbara battled a blaze Wednesday that burned close to 200 acres and forced home evacuations.

The fire lay dormant most of the Wednesday. But strong winds with gusts of up to 50 mph arrived in the afternoon and stoked the fire.

Gusty winds drove the wildfire into outlying neighborhoods of Santa Barbara, prompting the evacuation of 800 more homes Wednesday, increasing the number of homes evacuated to 2,000.

TV news helicopters over the blaze showed one home ablaze late Wednesday afternoon, with huge flames roiling close to other homes.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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