Red flag fire warnings signaling critical wildfire conditions were issued across Southern California on Thursday as the region braced for gusty winds and dry conditions.
The National Weather Service said that northeast winds up to 40 mph could be expected across mountain areas in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Southeast winds up to 50 mph could blow across Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.
Powerful winds were also forecast for San Diego and Orange counties.
The warnings were issued through Friday evening due to the high winds, low relative humidity and very dry vegetation, according to the weather service.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said it was placing personnel in wildland areas on high alert and will be keeping many of its air bases open.
Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said “bone-dry” conditions in January have led to an “explosive increase” in brush fires.
Since the start of the year, Cal Fire crews have responded to nearly 300 wildfires that have charred more than 700 acres, Berlant said. Typically for the period, firefighters respond to about about 50 fires that burn approximately 100 acres.
On Thursday, fire officials said they had nearly contained the Colby fire, which charred 1,950 acres in the San Gabriel Mountains above Glendora and Azusa after breaking out last week.