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Countywide : Dry Winds Abate but Firefighters Stay Alert

October 11, 1994|MARTIN MILLER

The dry desert winds that put Southern California firefighters on alert over the weekend abated Monday, although fire officials said they are remaining vigilant for trouble from a lingering Santa Ana condition.

Nearly a year after parts of Laguna Beach were devastated by a firestorm that claimed 441 houses and caused $528 million in damage, fire officials said they were relieved Monday by a regional cooling trend. Even the smog looked good--signaling the return to the dominant weather pattern of onshore winds, fire officials said.

Although the Santa Ana winds are waning, fire officials said they remain on a high-level alert. Extra fire crews are on standby and are poised to extinguish blazes caused by the extremely dry conditions, which were further aggravated by this weekend's hot winds.

Santa Ana winds--compressed by high pressure over the desert and shot through mountain passes toward the sea--usher in arid, fast-moving air and the greatest danger of brush fires.

As an added precaution, officials will dispatch additional fire engines to routine fire calls and will monitor three weather stations that track wind, humidity and temperatures in tinder-dry hills and wilderness areas. If conditions warrant, officials will position strike teams in sensitive areas and send out patrolling fire engines.

Fire officials said crews will stay on a high alert, probably until the arid areas receive rainfall.

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