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Fire agencies on high alert due to Santa Ana winds, warm weather

Los Angeles Fire Department

Fire agencies across Southern California were on high alert and planning to beef up crews in wildland areas due to hot weather and powerful Santa Ana winds expected to last through Thursday.

The Los Angeles Fire Department announced that extra crews would be deployed in brush areas beginning at 8 a.m. Wednesday and be on duty for at least 24 hours, depending on weather conditions. 

The crews are scheduled to staff 21 additional fire engines and five lightweight brush patrol vehicles, among other units. The firefighters will work at stations in areas including the Hollywood Hills, Shadow Hills and Bel Air, the LAFD said.

PHOTOS: Wind gusts across Southern California<

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is also placing additional crews and equipment on alert to respond aggressively to any blazes that break out, agency officials said.

"The drought has set the stage for a very dry and potentially dangerous fire season," Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said. 

He noted that last year's fire season never ended because of the drought. "These strong winds will only elevate the current fire risk," Pimlott said. 

A strong ridge of high pressure settled over Southern California on Tuesday, pushing temperatures into the 90s and causing powerful Santa Ana winds that increased the fire danger in parched wildland areas.

The unseasonably warm weather is expected to last for the next several days, and the high winds will increase in strength through Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

The agency said damaging wind gusts from 60 to 75 mph are expected in Los Angeles County mountain areas and the Santa Clarita Valley. 

The Weather Service issued red flag fire warnings signaling critical fire danger for mountain and valley areas from Los Angeles County to San Diego County. Temperatures are expected to be in the 80s and 90s, and relative humidity could drop to 5%, the agency said.

In Orange County, a record daily high was set Tuesday in Newport Beach, which topped out at 92 degrees. That broke a record of 86 set in 1921. Laguna Beach reached a high of 95, topping by three degrees a record set in 1981, the Weather Service said.

The high reached 95 at Long Beach Airport and 92 at Santa Monica Airport. About three miles away at the Santa Monica Pier, the temperature was 79. Downtown Los Angeles topped out at 92 degrees, and Woodland Hills hit 90.

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robert.lopez@latimes.com

Twitter: @LAJourno

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