Fire officials say that this year, fire conditions will be critical as soon as July. They are warning that we need to prepare for a long and intense fire season. Officials asked people to “be alert” and help with the prevention of fires. Jacob Rascon reports from Diamond Bar for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on June 17, 2013.
A red flag warning -- indicating weather conditions that increase the risk of wildfires -- is in effect Wednesday for Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara county mountains amid an already destructive wildfire season.
The warning, scheduled to expire at 10 a.m. Thursday, comes as wind speeds increased early Wednesday in the Antelope Valley and dry air moves into Southern California. The strongest winds are expected in the passes and canyons of the Santa Ynez mountain range from late Wednesday afternoon to early Thursday.
Gusts up to 45 mph are in the forecast for the range north of Santa Barbara.
"Very low humidities, coupled with continued gusty winds and very dry fuels, will likely bring critical fire weather conditions," according to a National Weather Service statement.
More than 60 additional LA County fire units will be on duty at 26 locations within the warning area.
More than 2,200 wildfires have been recorded by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection since the beginning of the year. About 50,000 acres have burned in the department's protection area.
About 1,500 fires and 10,000 acres had burned at this time last year.
"It's probably the most volatile fire season that's projected, based on our 100-year history," said Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby.
The Red Flag warning includes the same area in which the Powerhouse fire began May 30. The fire scorched more than 50 square miles west of Palmdale in Angeles National Forest.
"That area sees a lot of our extreme fire behavior, especially this time of year when the fuel is very receptive and ready to burn," said Los Angeles County Fire Department inspector Anthony Akins.
The Red Flag warning area is west of Banning, where crews continue to attack a brush fire that began June 9. The nearly six-square mile fire was 80-percent contained Wednesday morning.
Full containment is expected June 25. No structures are threatened by the fire, to which 596 firefighters are assigned.
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