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Soaring temps increase risk of wildfires through Monday: ‘I’d say the tinder box would be Southern California itself’

Soaring temperatures
The sun sets on the Autumnal Equinox, the first day of fall, at Angels Gate Park in San Pedro on Sept. 22. Weather forecasts call for soaring temperatures through Monday afternoon.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Red flag warnings are in effect through Monday afternoon, as soaring temperatures and the first major Santa Ana winds of the season are expected to sweep through an already parched Southern California.

“I’d say the tinder box would be Southern California itself,” said David Sweet, a metereologist with the National Weather Service. “All areas in Ventura County and Los Angeles County are being subjected to gusty winds, high temperatures and low humidities.”

At 9 a.m. Sunday, several Los Angeles County cities had already reached double-digit increases over Saturday’s temperatures, with Chatsworth at 89, 18 degrees hotter than the same time the day before, and even coastal areas such as Rancho Palos Verdes in the low 80s.

In downtown Los Angeles, the temperature is expected to rise to 100 on Monday.

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That, combined with powerful wind gusts and chronically dry vegetation from the ongoing drought, could make for explosive fire conditions, officials say.

“Normally, we have spots where we can kind of focus, but looking at the weather pattern and winds, there’s lots of areas we’re worried about during these Santa Ana winds because they’re blowing pretty much everywhere.”

Over the summer, fire activity — even without Southern California’s well-known winds, was already “very extreme,” Cordova says. “You add another element like the Santa Ana winds to the scenario, it can make it extremely dangerous.”

If a fire does break out in the next 48 hours, Cordova says, residents should be extra-cautious in heeding evacuation orders. “As firefighters, we’re noticing these fires are moving very quickly and they’re burning very extreme. A lot of times [residents] don’t have the time they think to get out.”

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The National Weather Service says Los Angeles and Ventura counties will see a slight break, with gradual cooling and increasing humidity starting Tuesday and continuing through the end of the week.

carlos.lozano@latimes.com

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UPDATES:

9:18 p.m. This article was updated with the temperature forecast for Monday.

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This article was originally published at 11:54 a.m.


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