The fires were fueled by a dangerous mix of record-high temperatures and strong winds that officials say are unusual for May.
The fires were more proof that California’s drought conditions have created a year-round fire season.
“In San Diego County, what we’re experiencing over the last several days is high temperatures, low humidity and very high winds. That’s a weather pattern that we usually see in the fall,” said Berlant. “All it took was the spark of a fire.”
In Orange County, the temperatures at John Wayne Airport hit 105 degrees Wednesday. The average high temperature for this day is 72 degrees. Relative humidity was at 3%, which National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Moede said was also a surprise.
“This is very unusual for the middle of May in Santa Ana,” Moede said. “Usually we have a marine layer, the typical May gray.”
Officials had this weather forecast about a week in advance. Over the weekend, Cal Fire had begun moving equipment and staff from the Central Valley to Southern California to prepare for fires this week, Berlant said.
There is cool relief in sight.
“Over the weekend, we’re going to start seeing a dramatic cooling trend,” Moede said. “By early next week, we’ll start seeing what’s normal temperature-wise. Highs in the 60s and low 70s in the coastal zones.”