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Hot weather raises wildfire risk across Southern California

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Scorching temperatures across the Southland this weekend have elevated the risk of wildfires, weather officials warned.

David Sweet, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard, said above-normal temperatures were expected inland Sunday as high as the mid-90s in the valleys.

In addition to the hot weather and low humidity, there is also a higher risk of grass and brush fires because winter rains fed a thick undergrowth, creating fuel for a blaze, he said. Temperatures are expected to drop by midweek as the region experiences an increase of onshore flow, Sweet said.

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Early Sunday morning, Los Angeles firefighters worked to contain a grass and brush fire in Ernest E. Debs Regional Park in northeast Los Angeles that burned three-quarters of an acre.

Later, Los Angeles County firefighters were called out around 6:30 a.m. to battle a quarter-acre brush fire along Angeles Crest Highway in Angeles National Forest. No structures were being threatened, according to a county Fire Department dispatcher.

In San Diego County, a wildfire south of Jamul had burned 2,000 acres by Sunday evening and was threatening the community of Dulzura, where residents were alerted to the possible need to evacuate.

Called the Gate fire, the blaze is 70% contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It broke out about 11:20 a.m. Saturday.

Authorities sealed off several backcountry roads and evacuated a campground as wind-swept flames roared through rolling, grassy hills at a “dangerous rate,” Cal Fire said within an hour of the fire’s start.

Dulzura remains under an evacuation warning, although residents who chose to evacuate were escorted back to their homes overnight, officials said. Fire officials said cooling overnight temperatures and a rise in humidity enabled firefighters to make gains toward containment.

The fire started on a dirt road off California 94 that leads to a Bureau of Land Management recreational area commonly used for target shooting, Cal Fire Capt. Isaac Sanchez said.

When winds pushed the blaze west toward Pio Pico RV Resort and Campground, the facility was evacuated as a precaution. A late-afternoon shift then sent flames southeast toward Dulzura, Sanchez said, where mostly grass and sparse brush were burning.

On Saturday, five air tankers and three helicopters were making water drops at one point, Sanchez said. Fire crews from several agencies were helping on the ground.

Times staff writer Marisa Gerber and Kristina Davis and Pauline Repard of the San Diego Union-Tribune contributed to this report.

ben.poston@latimes.com

Follow @bposton on Twitter.


UPDATES:

6:35 p.m.: This story was updated with new figures on acreage and containment.

2:10 p.m.: This story was updated with details about when temperatures will begin to cool this week.

This story was published at 10:10 a.m.


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