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Heat, Wind Elicit Extra Caution From Firefighters


SANTA ANA — Record-breaking heat and Santa Ana wind conditions Monday prompted authorities to dispatch more than 20 times the usual number of firefighters to quell several fires before they burned out of control.

Temperatures reached 99 degrees in Santa Ana, which surpassed a 97-degree record in 1965, and hit the 100-degree mark in Anaheim, said Curtis Brack, meteorologist for WeatherData, which provides weather information for The Times. Santa Ana winds blew at about 14 m.p.h., enough to fan a fire, Brack said.

Cooler temperatures are expected today, with highs from the mid-70s along the coast to the upper 90s inland.

But on Monday, hot temperatures, mixed with the dry Santa Ana winds, stoked two wildfires that authorities believe were deliberately set, said Capt. Dan Young, spokesman for the Orange County Fire Authority.

About 12:30 p.m., almost 70 firefighters and a helicopter were summoned to a wildfire near Cabot Road and Oso Parkway in Laguna Hills, Young said.

"If somebody was to call 911 and reported such a fire six months ago, we would have sent out one engine," he said. But on Monday, "we sent six engines, two water tenders, a helicopter, two bulldozers and three hand crews. We dispatched a great deal of equipment immediately because with strong Santa Ana winds, these little fires can become massive in small periods of time."

It took about an hour to control the fire, which charred two acres.

Another brush fire was reported about 3:40 p.m. at the Santa Ana Freeway and Jeffrey Road near Irvine and again, the same number of firefighters was dispatched, Young said. The fire was limited to less than an acre and took about 10 minutes to control, he said.

"We're getting into a critical season where increased temperatures and dry conditions present threats of fires that often can't be stopped if they're not contained within minutes," Young said.

In two unrelated incidents, record-breaking temperatures prompted residents to call 911 when two children were accidentally locked inside their families' vehicles with the windows rolled up, Young said. The children, whose names were not available, were rescued within 10 minutes and were not injured, he said.

"In this kind of heat, it could have been fatal," Young said. "Remember, it's not only hot, but it's also dry. So it doesn't take very long" before they suffocate.

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