Fire danger in Southern California is significantly higher this weekend. A Santa Ana wind event combined with near record low fuel moisture is posing a substantial fire threat until Monday or Tuesday. The National Weather Service has forecast a red flag warning from early Friday morning, Oct. 4 through Sunday evening, Oct.6
State and federal fire agencies have taken actions to prepare for this possibility and to enhance protection in the region, including the Hill.
“Here in Southern California there is additional risk of fire,” said Dan Felix, Fire Chief for the San Jacinto Ranger District. He was talking to this state and local colleagues during yesterday’s Mountain Area Safety Taskforce meeting. Federal fire suppression staff are exempted for the current federal government shutdown.
“For our neighbors to the north, their threat is lessening so we’re moving resources here where we think they’ll be needed,” Felix stated.
An extra hotshot crews and extra patrols are on the San Jacinto District. In addition, an extra strike team and additional type 2 helicopters have been assigned to the San Bernardino National Forest, according to Felix.
CAL FIRE is also beefing its staffing here, according Riverside County Fire Chief John Hawkins. Four more type 3 engines, more dozers and an additional air tanker for Hemet Ryan have been moved here.
“You can never reclaim get-away time,” Hawkins said explaining why these resources were being moved now. If a fire starts, the initial attack will be intense and immediate. Because of the low fuel moisture and relative humidity, fire officials want to minimize the time to bring resources to bear on the potential fire.
“All of our people are aware of the situation and prime and prepared to be called in,” said Idyllwild Fire Captain James Reyes. He added that an additional two firefighters were already on duty in case of a fire.
The Santa Ana event should weaken Sunday, but during the weekend gust could approach 50 miles per hour in the Banning Pass, according to the CAL FIRE’s predictive services unit at the Southern Operations in Riverside.
“The combination of a widespread, moderate intensity Santa Ana wind event along with near record low fuel moisture conditions will cause large fire potential to be higher than at any time during the past several years,” they reported Thursday morning.
“The gusty northeast winds may extend well above the valley floors to include elevations above 8,000 feet in Southern California which is significantly higher in elevation than the surface winds typically produced during offshore wind events.,” they advised.