A red flag warning indicating an increased threat from wildfires is in effect in Southern California as the region prepared for a fall heat wave that might extend into next week.
Firefighters are being deployed for precautionary measures in Los Angeles and the Angeles National Forest. The red flag warning for the mountains and valleys of Los Angeles and Ventura counties went into effect late Wednesday night in some areas and was taking effect at 6 a.m. Thursday in others.
The warnings, which come after a late-September heat wave that exacerbated drought conditions across the state, could be extended beyond this afternoon.
Light to moderate winds are expected with gusts exceeding 40 mph.
"Widespread critical conditions are likely over much of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, especially the valleys and mountains," according to a National Weather Service statement.
Specifically cited by the NWS monitoring station in Oxnard as being under a red flag warning were the San Gabriel and Santa Monica mountains, the Angeles National Forest and San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys in L.A. County, and Ventura County's Los Padres National Forest and internal and coastal valleys.
"Fire season isn't really a season anymore," said Capt. Kyle Hauducoeur, of the San Bernardino County Fire Department. "It could be December, it could be January. Be ready."
The abundance of bone-dry vegetation amid the California drought is a major factor in the wildfire threat, forecasters said. The state is entering a fourth-consecutive dry year and just finished one of its driest years on record.
"With extremely dry fuels in place, if fire ignition occurs there could be rapid spread of wildfire that would lead to a threat to life and property," the NWS statement said.
The Los Angeles Fire Department said it will pre-deploy additional resources starting at 8 a.m. These additional firefighters will be deployed at select neighborhood fire stations serving high-hazard brush areas for at least a 24-hour period, with focus on the Porter Ranch area, Bel Air, Beverly Glen, Sun Valley and the Shadow Hills area, La Tuna Canyon, Encino, Sylmar, Laurel Canyon, Mulholland Drive and the West Hills/Canoga Park area.
"These sort of weather conditions will make the small fires go to big fires very, very fast," LA County Fire Inspector Randy Wright said.
The fire department did not immediately order red flag parking restrictions in wildfire-prone areas that have very narrow roads, hairpin turns and intersections where fire trucks have trouble getting through to fires if cars are parked there.
Officials with the Angeles National Forest announced they would begin stationing additional fire-suppression resources Wednesday night, with extra engines being pre-positioned and staff warned of 'round-the-clock operations. The Forest Fire Danger Level has been at "very high" and "conditions are only expected to get worse," Forest Fire Chief Jim Hall said Wednesday.
Capt. Mike Mohler of Cal Fire also said his agency was moving extra engines and hand crews into Los Angeles County in response to the fire danger expected to last through the weekend.
Because wildfires can threaten homes, Wright suggests people be ready to evacuate.
"Hopefully you've prepared before and you've made a kit to bring with you," Write said. "People, pets, photos and plastics. Plastics meaning your credit cards."
LA County Fire has put together a how-to guide on evacuating called "Ready Set Go" and in it, provides advice on evacuation preparation and advice on clearing brush and hardening your house to make it more safe.
Afternoon temperatures will climb into the 80s and 90s across the coastal and valley areas Thursday and to between 90 and the low 100s by Friday, said an NWS statement said, adding that a peak in the heat is expected on Saturday with highs of around 106 degrees Fahrenheit.
During the heat wave, which could last into early next week, high temperatures will run 10 to 20 degrees above normal. A slow cooling trend will begin in coastal areas on Sunday, they said.
The NWS forecast highs today of 79 in San Clemente; 84 in Avalon and on Mount Wilson; 85 in Newport Beach, Palmdale and Lancaster; 88 in Laguna Beach; 90 at LAX; 93 in Saugus; 94 in Downtown L.A; 96 in Pasadena, Anaheim and Yorba Linda; 97 in San Gabriel, Burbank, Long Beach and Fullerton; and 98 in Woodland Hills and Mission Viejo