California wildfires: Weather remains big factor, officials say

May 04, 2013|By Christine Mai-Duc
  • Firefighter Brent Smith of the Orange County Fire Department sits atop a firetruck as his unit awaits orders Saturday morning.
Firefighter Brent Smith of the Orange County Fire Department sits atop… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)

Ventura County fire officials said Saturday morning that they were encouraged by cooler temperatures and rising humidity as they began to get a handle on a massive wildfire but cautioned that the weather “can change on a dime here in Southern California.” 

Lower winds and higher humidity allowed firefighters to conduct a series of controlled burns along Portrero Road in the Hidden Valley area, said Mike Lindbery, a spokesman for the county fire department. On Friday, the area was under voluntary and mandatory evacuations.

“When conditions permit, it can be a very effective tool to maintain containment,” Lindbery said of the burns. The 30,000-acre fire is 30% contained.

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Ground crews spent the evening cutting away brush along the road, starting at the top of the ridge and built a narrow line down to the base.

"The whole idea is still to slam the door shut” on the fire's path, Lindbery said of the strategy. “Weather is always a factor here.”

Water-dropping helicopters and tanker planes were also assisting in the fight. The cause of the fire, which erupted on Thursday, remains under investigation.

The National Weather Service lifted its red-flag warnings Friday evening, saying that weather conditions were no longer ripe for wildfires. Temperatures in Camarillo were in the mid-60s and humidity about 58% overnight.

Inland areas should experience a 15- to 20-degree drop from Friday’s highs going into the weekend, said Bonnie Bartling of the weather service. Temperatures in coastal areas are expected to top out at 70 degrees with a marine layer crawling over Los Angeles County.

A more dramatic cooling should take place Sunday with possible showers helping firefighters out.

Elsewhere in the region, firefighters on Friday quickly knocked down brush fires that threatened homes in Glendale and the San Gabriel Valley suburb of Walnut.

Lori Ross, another county fire spokeswoman, said fire officials were definitely encouraged Saturday.

“We’re going to try to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and onshore breeze … we are definitely encouraged by the current and predicated weather pattern," she said. "But we also know that can change on a dime here in Southern California.”


Los Angeles regional weather forecast

Wildfires slow commutes in north L.A. County 

California wildfires: Cooler weather, rain helps fire fight

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