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Southern California back on fire watch as dangerous winds return; red flag warnings expanded

Smoke rises in the Newhall Pass during the Saddleridge fire.
Smoke rises in the Newhall Pass during the Saddleridge fire.
(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Southern California is back on fire watch this weekend amid winds and warm temperatures, with Southern California Edison warning of possible preventive power outages.

A small brush fire broke out Saturday morning in the Hollywood Hills off Stanley Hills Drive but was quickly extinguished by firefighters, who said there were no winds at the time.

But that is expected to change throughout the region.

The National Weather Service issued a red-flag warning for Santa Barbara County’s south coast and mountain regions that remains in effect through Sunday night. The Real fire near Goleta started Thursday and burned 420 acres. It is now 50% contained.

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There, so-called sundowner winds were expected to combine with low humidity and dry brush to increase the threat of wildfires. Gusts could reach 70 mph in the hills above Montecito on Saturday night and continue into Sunday morning, according to the weather service. The notorious winds, which are similar to Santa Anas in the south, have fueled a number of devastating fires in the area, including the massive Thomas fire that burned more than 281,000 acres in 2017.

On Saturday, the weather service expanded its red flag warning to include parts of Ventura and Los Angeles counties, including the Santa Clarita Valley and the Santa Monica Mountains. The strongest winds are expected to hit overnight, and the red flag warning will remain in effect from 6 p.m. Saturday to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Wind gusts could top 50 mph in part of the San Fernando Valley. Highs will get into the 80s.

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Edison is considering shutting off power to more than 56,000 customers over the weekend throughout Southern California amid warnings from forecasters that strong winds will raise the risk of wildfires.

The utility has already warned customers in eight counties that their electricity could be turned off in the coming days.

The largest concentration of customers who could be affected — more than 24,000 — is in Santa Barbara County.


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