As another heat wave is set to hit the Central Coast this weekend, firefighters are keeping a close eye on fires still burning and urging the public to help keep more from flaring up.
High pressure will rebuild back into the area Friday into Monday and will produce increasing northwesterly winds along the coastline and warm to hot weather, with the North County expected to reach triple digits, according to PG&E meteorologist John Lindsey. Paso Robles is forecast to reach 101 degrees Friday and 106 on Saturday and Sunday. That means fire indexes will be high, the same levels they were last week when a heat wave rolled through and multiple fires broke out on the Central Coast.
“Increasing temperatures, that tends to lower the moisture and promote wildfire chances,” Lindsey said.
It was under those conditions seven days ago when the Alamo Fire east of Santa Maria broke out. As of Thursday evening, it had burned nearly 29,000 acres and destroyed multiple structures. Cal Fire Capt. Katherine Garver said there is minimal fire activity on that blaze, with 85 percent containment, but the rising temperatures cause concern for the safety of the firefighters still mopping up and increases the possibility of more fires in the area.
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“Especially with people out and about this weekend, we are asking that people exercise extreme caution,” Garver said.
The same goes for the Garza Fire. The smoke, which is visible from northern San Luis Obispo County, is alarming Paso Robles residents, but not to worry: It is about 28 miles away in Fresno and Kings counties. That area will also see an increase in heat and create new problems for the fire that has burned more than 26,000 acres near Avenal. That blaze was at 35 percent containment Thursday evening, according to Cal Fire.
The weather presents a more serious challenge for crews battling the Whittier Fire, which began last Saturday near Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara County. Sundowner winds, northerly offshore wind in the Santa Barbara area, up to 25 mph along with temperatures as high as 96 degrees in the Goleta area could create critical fire danger and behavior Friday and Saturday, Lindsey said. Already 20 structures have been lost and an estimated 3,500 people have been evacuated as the fire has burned more than 12,000 acres. As of Thursday evening, it was 52 percent contained, according to Cal Fire.
Both Lindsey and Garver agree — if the Central Coast can make it through another hot weekend without any new fires breaking out, it will be a success.
Lindsey said the current forecast calls for the North County to cool to the high 90s next week for the start of the California Mid-State Fair, warming to triple-digit levels starting next Thursday into the following weekend.