MOORPARK, Calif. (AP) — New wildfires threatened homes in Southern California on Tuesday as hot and dry Santa Ana winds turned the region into a tinder box.
A wind-driven blaze in rural hills of Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles quickly grew to 1,500 acres, threatening the northwestern area of the city of Moorpark, said county fire Capt. Ron Oatman.
Evacuations were ordered for scattered ranches and homes. Oatman couldn’t provide a specific number but said numerous homes and electrical infrastructure were threatened. One small building was seen ablaze.
“Don’t wait for an evacuation order if you feel like you’re in danger,” he said.
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Air tankers, helitankers and bulldozers aided 400 firefighters. The weather was hot, with sustained winds of 15 mph to 20 mph and single-digit humidity percentages, Oatman said.
Another fire broke out in Riverside County, 40 miles east of Los Angeles, and burned from the city of Riverside into the city of Norco and toward adjacent Corona before nearing containment at 120 to 150 acres, said Norco Fire Chief Jack Frye. Flames burned near homes, but none were lost despite gusts of up to 45 mph, he said.
Flames were whipped by the region’s notorious Santa Ana winds, which blow from the northeast, speeding up and warming as they descend through mountain passes and canyons and push seaward. The air is extremely dry, lowering humidity levels and making brush easier to burn.Gusts of 30 mph to 40 mph were reported in Southern California’s mountains, the National Weather Service said.
The Santa Anas also whipped up clouds of ash north and east of Los Angeles in the vast area of the San Gabriel Mountains burned over by a gigantic wildfire that continues to smolder a month after it began.
The winds caused some increased fire activity on ridgetops in the San Gabriels, but the haze was from blowing ash, not smoke columns, said Carol Underhills, a public information officer for the U.S. Forest Service.
The fire burned across 160,557 acres — 251 square miles — of Angeles National Forest after it was ignited by arson on Aug. 26. At its peak it destroyed 89 homes and caused two firefighter deaths.
The blaze chewed through heavy growth in areas that hadn’t burned in decades, leaving a carpet of ash in about a quarter of the 1,000-square-mile forest north and east of Los Angeles.
The fire remained 94 percent surrounded Tuesday, and fire commanders again pushed back the projected date for full containment, this time from Tuesday evening to Thursday morning, due to the weather.
Most of the remaining fire activity in the Angeles forest has been on the north side of Mount Wilson, the antenna-studded peak towering over suburban Pasadena and Sierra Madre, and in the Twin Peaks area on the east side of the fire, Underhills said.
The weather service also issued “red flag” warnings of fire weather conditions in other parts of California due to a combination of low humidity, high temperatures and wind.
Those areas included the hills east of San Francisco Bay and mountains to the north, the northern Sierra and northern Sacramento Valley and a large swath of the state farther north.