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Forest fire risk 'very high'

Officials say high temperatures, dry fuel are to blame

Posted: July 10, 2009 9:25 p.m.
Updated: July 11, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Newhall resident Josh Hahn, 17, helps put out a fire that burned 5 acres at the Valencia Summit Park recently.

 
Dry fuel, high temperatures and scores of small blazes in the Angeles National Forest have prompted officials this week to declare the wildlands in "very high" danger of wildfires.

The declaration in fire-prone Southern California national forests is typically an annual ritual intended to raise fire-safety awareness.
But this year, it comes a bit early, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Stanton Florea.

Already, 79 fires have broken out in and around the forest since May 17, he said. The two largest fires so far this season - the Island Fire and the Tujunga Fire - erupted within the last nine days.

"The ironic thing is nationally, it's been a very slow fire season so far," Florea said.

Hotter weather is forecast this weekend and into next week, the National Weather Service said, with daytime temperatures approaching 100 degrees through Wednesday.

The most at-risk areas in the Santa Clarita Valley will be those covered in dry grass below 4,500 feet elevation, Florea said.

He said conditions are similar to those in the summer of 2004, when the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys saw three large fires that scorched tens of thousands of acres.

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