Fire danger looms over Southern California as sundowner winds blow in

Fire crews head out to clear brush around homes in Porter Ranch
Crews head out to clear away brush in Porter Ranch while battling the Saddleridge fire Oct. 11. As of Sunday, the fire was 78% contained.
(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Southern California remains on fire watch as warm temperatures, low humidity and strong northerly winds, known as sundowner winds, continue to pose a fire danger for much of the region on Sunday.

Red flag warnings for the mountains in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties remain in effect until 10 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. Mountain areas could experience gusts of up to 60 mph with isolated gusts of 75 mph near the peaks.

The Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys will experience similar weather conditions, with the foothills expected to see gusts of up to 50 mph.


Humidity levels are also expected to be in the range of 12% to 20% by evening, according to forecasters. That low humidity, combined with the high winds and dry brush, are a recipe for extreme fire behavior. The strong winds can potentially take down trees and power lines, as well as make driving difficult on mountain roads.

The sundowner winds, similar to Santa Ana winds, have fueled many brush fires in Southern California, including the massive Thomas fire, which burned more than 281,000 acres in 2017.

Temperatures in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties will climb to the mid-80s on Sunday, while Los Angeles County will see temperatures range from the high 80s to the low 90s.

The elevated fire risk has led Southern California Edison to consider shutting power off to about 45,000 customers in those three counties. The utility already has warned customers that their electricity could be turned off in the coming days. The largest concentration of customers who could be affected — more than 21,000 — is in Santa Barbara County.

Meanwhile the Los Angeles Fire Department continued to make headway on the Saddleridge fire, which has burned more than 8,700 acres in the hills of the north San Fernando Valley since it began on Oct. 10. As of Sunday, the fire was 80% contained.