By Christine Mai-Duc
6:03 PM PST, December 28, 2013
High winds and dry conditions are keeping firefighters on alert in Southern California this weekend as local fire agencies have announced plans to boost wildfire resources over the next 24 hours.
Santa Ana winds combined with parched brush and single-digit humidity in some areas have prompted a red flag warning through 10 p.m. Sunday, the second in the L.A. area in less than a week.
“Our fuel moistures are remaining at critical, critical levels,” said Capt. Mike Lindbery of the Ventura County Fire Department.
Lindbery said similar conditions earlier this week contributed to the fast-moving Lilac fire in Simi Valley on Christmas night. Firefighters were able to quickly contain that blaze to several acres, but Lindbery said brush conditions were some of the driest he’s seen in his 25 years as a firefighter.
“We may see more radical fire behavior here at the end of December than we might in September or October when fire season usually occurs,” he said.
Though record-breaking temperatures observed on Christmas Day have cooled some, officials are anticipating 30-mph winds, with gusts up to 70 mph in some mountain areas, said Bonnie Bartling of the National Weather Service.
In response, fire officials in Los Angeles and Ventura counties are upping staff levels on engines, strike teams and water tenders.
“We want to take every precaution necessary to apply our resources in areas that we feel are most critical. If we do get a start, hopefully we can knock it out quickly and protect residents effectively,” said L.A. County Fire Inspector Scott Miller.
Miller said the agency has added an extra firefighter to each of its 45 units in brush areas in addition to staffing extra bulldozer crews and a helicopter.
Fire officials especially urged residents living in wildland and mountain areas to review and follow plans to minimize fire danger around their homes.
“Just because we’re entering into traditionally cooler weather doesn’t take away from the fact that we have an extremely dry fuel bed out there and extreme weather conditions this weekend,” Miller said.
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