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Fire weather arrives in L.A. as firefighters battle blaze in Yolo County

Fire weather arrives in L.A. as firefighters battle blaze in Yolo County
Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia voluntarily evacuated Sunday because of a wildfire burning nearby. The blaze was 50% contained Sunday night and holding at 40 acres. (City of Santa Clarita)

Firefighters battling a fire in Yolo County are also struggling with the weather as hot and dry conditions begin their inevitable creep throughout California.

Winds and temperatures in the 90s drove the Sand fire Saturday afternoon, prompting the mandatory evacuation of 125 residents along County Road 41. By nightfall, the fire grew to 2,200 acres.

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Cooler temperatures helped firefighters make progress and containment increased from 20% to 30%, said Will Powers, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, who added that the blaze has been a challenge to fight because of the area’s steep terrain and thick, heavy brush.

In an effort to avoid the kinds of fires started by downed power lines and other malfunctions, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. temporarily shut off power early Saturday to thousands of customers in Yolo, Napa and Solano counties as a safety precaution.

Winds in Northern California are expected to be mild in the coming week, but high temperatures are expected to remain above average, said Michelle Mead, a warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s Sacramento office.

A heat advisory is in effect through Tuesday as temperatures climb to near-record highs in areas including Redding, downtown Sacramento and Stockton, she said. The heat will “shut off” air movement and discourage windy conditions, but the firefighters battling the Sand fire will be at greater risk for heat stress, Mead said.

Firefighters were luckier with the Sky fire in L.A. County, which broke out Sunday near Six Flags Magic Mountain. Amusement park officials evacuated the Valencia park as clouds of smoke and ash covered the area, and roads closed to accommodate fire crews.

Temperatures in the mid-90s, low humidity and high winds made for a fast-moving fire; between Sunday and Monday, the fire grew from 40 to 100 acres. But with cooling temperatures overnight, firefighters managed to reach 70% containment from 50% the night before, said Capt. Tony Imbrenda with the Los Angeles County Fire Department on Monday morning.

Now, the fire department has pulled back resources and hand crews are mopping up, extinguishing remaining embers under smoldering and hot debris, he said. Six Flags said it would open as usual at 10:30 a.m. Monday.

“We’re hoping to [reach full containment] by this evening,” Imbrenda said. “There’s always the potential things could get going again.”

That possibility is palpable as the Highway 14 corridor from Santa Clarita to Antelope Valley sees a brief critical fire weather period Wednesday because of high heat and gusty winds, said NWS meteorologist Kristen Stewart.

Other small fires were scattered across L.A. County. Firefighters knocked down a one-acre brush fire in Hollywood Hills in about an hour on Sunday. In Castaic, the Sloan fire was contained at two acres.

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