Heat, Santa Ana winds raise Southern California fire danger
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Records fell as temperatures soared into triple digits across Southern California on Monday and authorities warned of more dangerous heat plus gusty Santa Ana winds that boost the risk of wildfires.
Downtown Los Angeles topped out 24 degrees above normal with a record of 102 for the date, besting the old mark of 98 set in 1965, the National Weather Service said.
Similar temperatures sizzled in the inland counties and spread into coastal cities. While crowds were light, those who could take a weekday at the beach found summerlike conditions.
The city of Camarillo an hour’s drive northwest of Los Angeles baked at 106.
The heat and winds were being generated by high pressure over the interior of the Western U.S. that causes dry air to move toward Southern California where it warms and speeds up as it squeezes through mountain passes and canyons and sweeps offshore, pushing back the normal moist and cool air from the Pacific Ocean.
“This event is especially concerning because of the multiple-day nature of it, which we have not seen yet this season and such events have a history of large fires,” the weather service said.
A similar offshore wind event spread this month’s devastating wildfires in Northern California that killed 42 people and destroyed at least 8,400 buildings.
Southern California fire agencies put extra firefighters on duty and rangers patrolling the Santa Monica Mountains were on the lookout for signs of fire or risks such as people smoking in the sprawling area covered with grass that sprang up after last winter’s rains and dried in the summer.
“We need all residents to be alert to suspicious activities,” Fernando Gomez, chief ranger of the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, said in a statement.
The Los Angeles Fire Department declared its first citywide Red Flag Alert since May 2014, banning vehicles from being parked on roads in areas designated as very high fire hazard zones for at least 24 hours starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
The restriction is intended to ensure fire engines and other emergency equipment can move through on what are typically narrow, winding streets in hilly areas.
No major fires had erupted by late afternoon.
Health agencies and paramedics urged people to drink plenty of water, minimize exposure to the sun, check on the elderly and infirm and to avoid strenuous activities.
On the eve of Game 1 of the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros escaped the peak of the day’s heat with workouts starting in the late afternoon. The temperature predicted for the start time of Game 1 on Tuesday was 94 degrees.
The Long Beach Unified School District in south Los Angeles County put its schools on a “minimum day” schedule due to a forecast of triple-digit heat. It was already 99 degrees in the port city by noon.
Fifty-one of the district’s schools have limited, outdated or no air conditioning, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported .
Dozens of San Diego Unified schools were also put on shortened day schedules.