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Strong Santa Ana winds expected this week, triggering fire fears

Strong Santa Ana winds expected this week, triggering fire fears
A beachgoer corrals a tattered umbrella that was picked up by high winds around the coast last month. Another Santa Ana wind event is expected this week, prompting forecasters to warn of fire danger. (Maria Alejandra Cardona / Los Angeles Times)

Strong Santa Ana winds are expected to blow through the Southland this week, which, paired with low humidity, could bring critical fire weather conditions to the region.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning that will go into effect Thursday morning, signaling possible fire danger across Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange counties through Friday night and putting firefighters on alert.

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The strongest winds are expected overnight Thursday into Friday morning, when forecasters predict gusts between 40 and 50 mph in the valleys and coasts, and between 60 and 70 mph in the mountains.

Fires that ignite during such blustery conditions, forecasters said, can spread quickly and behave erratically. They also warned of other impacts, such as power outages and downed trees, and urged residents to secure outdoor furniture that could blow away. People should also avoid using weed whackers and driving through dead grass.

“Live and dead vegetation is really, really dry, so fires, if fire ignition occurs, we would expect to see rapid spread, extreme fire behavior and long-range spotting,” said Carol Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Southern California Edison announced that it may turn off power in some areas to protect the power grid. About 57,000 customers were notified this week of possible power shutoffs in several high-risk fire areas, including Fontana, Trabuco Canyon, Mission Viejo, Orange, Santa Clarita, Pasadena, Chatsworth, Irvine, Malibu and Simi Valley.

Smith said the region will see a break in winds on Saturday, but another Santa Ana wind event is expected to kick up Sunday through Monday.

“Not as strong as the first one, but very dry, once again — and warmer,” Smith said.

7:25 p.m.: This article was updated with information about possible power shutoffs from Southern California Edison.

This article was originally published at 4:30 p.m.

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