A forecast of record-breaking heat and dry wind sparks brush fire worries across the state
A firefighting air tanker drops fire retardant on a hillside ahead of the County Fire Monday in Esparto, California.(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)
Firefighters watch as flames from the County fire climb a hillside in Guinda. California authorities have issued red flag weather warnings and mandatory evacuation orders after a series of wildfires fanned by high winds and hot temperatures ripped through thousands of acres.(Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)
A cow walks through a burning pasture in Guinda. The latest blaze, the County fire, sparked in Yolo County has burned 44,500 acres.(Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)
Jack Miguel of the Keyes Fire Department attacks a hot spot during the County fire in Capay Valley, Calif.(Paul Kitagaki Jr. / Sacramento Bee)
An air tanker drops retardant ahead of a fire line as the County fire burns near Brooks.(Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)
Flames rise around an outbuilding as the County fire burns in Guinda, Calif. Evacuations were ordered as dry, hot winds fueled a wildfire burning out of control in rural Northern California.(Noah Berger / Associated Press)
A wildfire burns near Lake Berryessa in Napa. Smoke from the Yolo County fire was contributing to poor air quality in Napa, Sonoma, San Mateo and San Francisco counties, according to the National Weather Service.(Paul Kitagaki Jr. / Sacramento Bee)
A meteorite falls from the sky, caught in a long time exposure image over the County fire at sunset as it burns out of control in Brooks.(PETER DASILVA / EPA / Shutterstock)
Record-breaking heat and gusty winds expected by the weekend will prime California’s brush-covered hills and valleys for fast-moving wildfires even as crews currently battle two large blazes in the northern half of the state.
Burdened with a 70,000-acre wildfire in Yolo County and a nearly 15,000-acre blaze in Lake County, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection crews will be on high alert this weekend along with county and local fire agencies, officials said Tuesday.
“It’s summertime in Northern California so the conditions are never great,” said Mike Kochasic, a meteorologist in Sacramento. With the exception of a three-day dip ending Friday, temperatures in the region around the fires will hover in the 90s, with wind gusts up to 30 mph and humidity below 30%, Kochasic said.
“It definitely does dry things. It’s a concern right around the holiday,” he added, referring to the Fourth of July.
“All the vegetation now is extremely stressed, and they’re all vying for that little bit of moisture that is out there,” said Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean. “It’s just a recipe for wildland fires.”
In Southern California, record-breaking heat this weekend will amplify fire risks, said Keily Delerme, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Oxnard.
Delerme said it could inch toward triple digits in downtown Los Angeles on Friday when the heat record for that date is 88 degrees. The valleys could peak at 112 degrees over the weekend.
Desert winds blasting toward the ocean are expected to keep any hint of a cool ocean breeze in check, she added.
In the meantime, scores of residents near the County fire in Yolo County remain under evacuation orders.
The blaze was threatening nearly 1,000 homes and businesses early Tuesday, authorities said.
It started in Yolo County on Saturday and grew to 70,000 acres with only 5% containment as of Tuesday morning, Cal Fire said.
The fire is burning in the rugged hills and canyons west of Sacramento near Lake Berryessa amid difficult terrain and shifting winds. Crews spent Monday and Tuesday setting up defensive positions around neighborhoods in the fire’s potential path, Cal Fire said.
There are more than 2,100 firefighters at the scene working to stop the blaze. Residents in neighboring Napa County’s Berryessa Highlands, Markley Cove Resort and Pleasure Cove Resort areas were told Monday night to prepare to flee if the fire pushes closer. Residents to their north, in Yolo County’s Esparto neighborhood, were evacuated over the weekend.
“Usually fire season is maybe late August, September, October,” said state Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), whose district includes Yolo County and other areas hit hard recently by wildfires. “But, boy, it’s just getting earlier and earlier.”
The blaze is the second largest wildfire of the year in California. The Pawnee fire, which began June 23 in Lake County, has burned 14,900 acres and is 80% contained after destroying 22 homes, businesses and other structures, Cal Fire said.
1:55 p.m.: This article was updated with weekend weather forecasts.
This article was originally published at 9:40 a.m.
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