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Fire erupts near 5 Freeway in Pacoima amid wind and heat warnings in Southern California

Fire erupts near 5 Freeway in Pacoima amid wind and heat warnings in Southern California
Terrie Lee Duba carries an umbrella for shade in downtown Los Angeles on Sept. 26. Forecasters on Tuesday warned strong winds, dry conditions and warm temperatures could increase the fire risk. (Los Angeles Times)

Several small blazes erupted alongside a freeway interchange in Pacoima on Tuesday afternoon, just hours after forecasters warned that powerful Santa Ana winds and warm temperatures could raise the risk of fires this week.

Flames were spotted about 12:19 p.m. among grass and rubbish near the 118 and 5 freeway interchange, according to Margaret Stewart, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Fire Department. Firefighters briefly blocked two lanes on the 118 as they tackled flames.

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The fire broke out as a red flag watch was issued for Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Powerful northerly winds will blow across the 5 Freeway and Santa Barbara County mountains late Wednesday night.

"During this time, there will be rapid drying with single-digit humidities becoming common across the high elevations," the weather service said in a statement.

Santa Ana winds will bring hot temperatures and dry out much of the area starting Thursday, with gusts reaching 50 mph in the valleys and mountains.

The warm and dry conditions could last until Saturday.

Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said warm temperatures and windy conditions have contributed to an active wildfire season.

California experienced its warmest summer on record this year, NOAA said. Dry conditions normally seen in October were observed this year in the early summer, NOAA said.

"In 2016, California has had more fires and more acres burned than in each of the previous five years," NOAA said in a drought report released Wednesday.

For breaking news in California, follow VeronicaRochaLA on Twitter.

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