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Southern California is in for a reprieve from dangerous fire weather

Los Angeles County firefighters put out a hot spot in the Durfee fire.
Los Angeles County firefighters put out a hot spot in the Durfee fire, which spread to an encampment for homeless people in the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area in South El Monte on Tuesday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Southern Californians are in for a reprieve from dangerous fire weather that plagued the region for more than a week, with lower temperatures and moister air in the forecast — though still no rain.

Santa Ana winds and dry heat fueled several wildfires across multiple counties, including the Bond fire in Orange County and the Cornell fire in Ventura.

On Tuesday afternoon, two additional brush fires broke out amid high winds in Ventura.

The first, dubbed the Perkin fire, spread to about 50 acres near the Oxnard city limits after erupting in a river bottom around 4:30 p.m. Crews slowed its progress by 7 p.m., Ventura County Fire Department Capt. Brian McGrath said.

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The second blaze, called the Main fire, burned through about 10 acres near the Ventura Pier after erupting at 5:30 p.m., according to McGrath. Within 40 minutes, it was smoldering.

“Everyone is pretty worn out,” McGrath said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles County Fire Department battled a five- to seven-acre fire near Center Pointe Parkway in Santa Clarita, which ignited around 11 p.m. and forced evacuations of several nearby homes. The fire’s advance was halted shortly after midnight, the city said on Twitter.

The county also worked with the Los Angeles Fire Department to battle a blaze that ignited in the Hollywood Hills early Wednesday morning. That fire, which burned in brush near the 1400 block of North Miller Drive, was extinguished within about 30 minutes, according to Brian Humphrey of the LAFD.

Fire crews across the region are now hoping milder weather will offer some relief, as red flag warnings issued by the National Weather Service expired Tuesday evening.

“We’re a lot more optimistic that we’ll be better off,” McGrath said.

National Weather Service meteorologist David Sweet said Wednesday that the warm, dry, windy conditions will dissipate in the coming days.

“We’re expecting a cooling trend and for the winds to die off from the east,” he said, noting that low clouds, fog and a breeze along coastal areas are possible. Temperatures will be in the 60s and lower 70s through Thursday.

Firefighters weren’t the only ones welcoming the change. Southern California Edison shut power to tens of thousands of customers across the region throughout the last week in an effort to prevent their electrical equipment from sparking a blaze.

Still, at least one fire, the Cornell fire, was reported to have ignited after the utility company’s low-voltage power lines came into contact with a wind-toppled tree.

Residents affected by Edison’s repeated outages said they had had enough of living in the dark. Many reported spoiled food and an inability to perform their jobs without internet access, saying it was especially difficult to be without power amid stay-at-home orders and increasing cases of COVID-19.

“During a time where we are in full lockdown and in a pandemic, students are unable to attend school and adults lose access to pay, since they cannot access the internet to work from home,” said Chatsworth resident Nishell Johnson, who has had her power cut three times since Thanksgiving.

Johnson said she is thinking about leaving Southern California.

“We can’t live in an area where we can’t rely on power,” she said Wednesday.

Tehachapi residents Brandy and Ed Sweeney said they have been without power for more than 40 hours over the course of the last week.

They worried that power outages were driving residents to use candles, fireplaces and generators, which in turn could spark more fires.

More than 59,000 Edison customers were without power Tuesday morning. By Wednesday, that number had decreased to 4,600 as the weather improved.

Edison spokesman Paul Griffo said residents affected by the outages could file a claim on the company’s website.

“Our top priority is the safety of customers, employees and communities, which is why we continue to enhance our wildfire mitigation efforts through grid hardening, situational awareness and enhanced operational practices,” he said.

Sweet said there are still no signs of rain on the horizon and that weather hospitable to fire will likely be back beginning Friday evening.

“This weekend, it does reverse again,” he said. “It goes back to more of a warm and dry situation.”


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