The threat of fire weather continued to plague California on Monday as strong winds, dry heat and the potential for power shutoffs loomed across much of the state.
The Los Angeles area will see elevated to critical fire weather conditions through Tuesday, the National Weather Service said, including a Santa Ana wind event that is colliding with a warming and drying trend.
Wind gusts as strong as 40 mph are possible over the western Los Angeles County mountains, the Santa Clarita Valley and the eastern Ventura County mountains and valleys. The Gaviota area could see isolated gusts as high as 55 mph.
Those winds will combine with a low 8% humidity and temperatures as high as 97 degrees, officials said — a perfect recipe for fire.
“Gusty winds and low relative humidity increase our concern,” said David Sweet, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. “If a fire were to start, there’s a potential for rapid spread.”
Officials are warning residents to avoid fire-related activities and use caution with any sources of sparks. Already on Monday, firefighters were working to contain a brush fire near Pyramid Lake that ignited when a vehicle fire spread to nearby vegetation.
Dubbed the Emigrant fire, the blaze sparked Friday and soon met with strong winds and dried vegetation, swelling to 255 acres with 65% containment by Monday morning. The fire spread quickly in a northern direction amid “the hot, dry weather and wind,” officials said.
Los Angeles isn’t the only area facing fire weather conditions. Central California will see temperatures as high as 10 degrees above normal through Tuesday, with many interior areas expected to reach triple digits.
Meanwhile, red flag warnings indicating the potential for significant fire danger have been issued across swaths of Northern California, including portions of the Bay Area and Sacramento and as far north as Redding. The National Weather Service said wind gusts as strong as 50 mph are a possibility in some areas.
The conditions have spurred Pacific Gas & Electric to institute public safety power outages across 10 counties in an effort to prevent their equipment from sparking a blaze, as it appears to have done with the Dixie fire in Northern California earlier this year.
That fire — the second largest in California history — climbed to 963,000 acres and was still burning Monday. It may have been sparked when a tree fell into a power line in Feather River Canyon, PG&E said.
Victims of that fire, which reduced more than 1,300 homes to rubble, have filed a lawsuit against the utility.
A red flag warning has also been issued over Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, where the KNP Complex fire has seared through more than 23,000 acres, officials said. The combination of wind and dryness could spell trouble for crews battling to protect the parks’ beloved giant sequoia trees.
The majority of the power shutoffs Monday and Tuesday will be in Northern and Central California, according to PG&E. More than 7,100 customers were already without power Monday morning.
PG&E initiates the outages when “gusty winds and dry conditions, combined with a heightened fire risk, are forecasted,” the agency said.