Howling winds, persistent dryness to elevate fire danger across California

A continued dry spell and strengthening winds will set the stage for an enhanced risk of wildfire ignition across California into the middle of October.

Abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions are occurring across Southern California, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Between zero and 40 percent of normal precipitation has fallen from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and San Diego since June 1.

Little to no rain is expected across the state through at least the second week of October. Low humidity combined with the lack of rainfall into next week will continue to dry out vegetation and add fuel for ongoing or future blazes.

“As temperatures climb and an offshore wind picks up, especially Friday and Saturday, the fire danger will remain high,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Ryan Adamson said.

“Each day [into next week] will also feature nearly full sunshine, which will further dry out vegetation,” he added.

High temperatures will climb into the 90s F along the Interstate 5 corridor of Southern California on Friday and Saturday.

A fresh round of chilly air will dive into the Northwest early next week, which will help to knock temperatures back down to seasonable levels across Southern California. However, winds may begin to increase even further.

“The exact location of the pocket of cold air aloft [early next week] will determine the strength of a potential Santa Ana event,” Adamson said.

Should a strong Santa Ana event unfold, there would be a greater risk of power outages, tree damage, blowing dust and wildfire ignition.

Gusty and locally damaging winds could also be a concern farther inland toward Las Vegas.

Regardless, any increase in the winds will mean that existing fires could spread more quickly, according to Adamson.

Fire crews will need to be vigilant for erratic wildfire behavior and breached containment lines.

One of the largest fires currently burning in California, the Lion Fire, will likely force the closure of several hiking trails in the Sequoia National Forest.

So far this year, wildfires have charred over 8 million acres in the United States, the most acreage burned since 2015, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Over 760,000 acres have been burned in California alone, CalFire reported.

On Sept. 28, the U.S. Forest Service announced that wildfire costs for the 2017 wildfire season exceeded $2 billion. The wildfire costs for all of 2016 were $1.6 billion.

To prevent new blazes, closely monitor and properly extinguish campfires, never throw a lit cigarette on the ground and avoid parking a vehicle over dry brush.