Small Brush Fires Burn as Strong Winds Sweep Across Southern California

Gusts up to 65 mph are possible in some areas during hot and dry conditions

Firefighters responded to several reports of small brush fires Wednesday as wind gusts topped 60 mph in some parts of Southern California during a hot and dry day of fire weather warnings.

A red flag warning, indicating elevated fire danger, was in effect for at least 12 hours Wednesday for a widespread area of Southern California, including the San Gabriel Valley, where a small brush fire broke out in Azusa. No structures were threatened and the fire was knocked down before noon.

Small fires also were reported along the 210 Freeway near Sylmar and in Lancaster near the LA-Kern county line. The Sylmar fires burned about a 1/2 acre, but firefighters protected nearby structures.

In Brea, a one-acre fire on a hillside next to the 57 Freeway slowed southbound traffic. At least one freeway lane was closed during the firefight, which included a water-dropping helicopter.

Powerful winds battered parts of Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, with the strongest gusts around 65, according to the National Weather  Service.

"The strongest winds are in the mountains and foothills and down through the Inland Empire," said NBC4 meteorologist Crystal Egger.

Winds will be strongest through mid-day and then begin to diminish by early evening, Egger said.

Gusts of 50 and 47 mph were reported early Wednesday in the Santa Clarita Valley northwest of Los Angeles. Later Wednesday morning, a gust of 62 mph was reported in the Newhall Pass north of LA.

The red flag warning also covers Orange County coastal areas, the Santa Ana Mountains and portions of the Cleveland National Forest. A gust of 56 mph was reported Wednesday morning in Freemont Canyon.

Because of fire weather conditions, parking restrictions were in effect in Pasadena from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The restrictions allow emergency vehicles to access narrow or winding  roads in areas that border surrounding wildlands.

Wednesday marks the fourth time is about six months that Pasadena has activated the red flag parking restrictions.

"In the past, we've averaged maybe once per year," said Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian.

The fire weather warnings come nearly two weeks after the most significant rainfall the region has seen in months. Heavy rainfall drenched foothill communities in the San Gabriel Valley, but did little to decrease the fire danger.

"There's a myth that because we had a lot of rain last weekend that there's still a lot of moisture," Derderian said. "That is not the case."

When heat builds up in canyon areas during dry conditions, it acts as a "convection oven," drying out the soil, Derderian said.

No similar parking restrictions were immediately in place in Los Angeles, where officials call for restrictions in the Hollywood Hills.

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