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Windy, dry California remains at risk for fires

  • Associated Press
  • January 15, 2014 - 5:30 PM

LOS ANGELES — Large swaths of California remained at risk for wildfires Wednesday as dry and windy weather conditions persisted.

Red flag warnings for critical fire weather conditions were posted from Santa Barbara County south through Los Angeles to the U.S.-Mexico border, along the spine of the Sierra Nevada, and in areas east and north of San Francisco Bay.

Fires that struck windy areas of the state on Tuesday were quickly quashed by large deployments of firefighters, aircraft and other equipment before the flames could be stoked by gusts into major conflagrations.

Three homes and outbuildings were damaged on Kimball Island, a marshy slip of land in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

East of Los Angeles, several residences and dozens of vehicles were destroyed by a 2-acre blaze in Riverside County's Jurupa Valley.

Among Tuesday's most dramatic incidents was a brief fire that swept up the steep face of Los Angeles' Pacific Palisades, snarling traffic on Pacific Coast Highway below.

Aircraft swooped in with water drops as firefighters unleashed streams from hoses, preventing damage to multimillion-dollar ocean-view homes.

Large parts of Southern California below mountain passes, canyons and foothills have been buffeted all week by the region's notorious Santa Ana winds.

Spawned by surface high pressure over the interior of the West, the Santa Anas form as the cold air flows toward Southern California, then speeds up and warms as it descends in a rush toward the coast. Some of the most extreme gusts reported by the National Weather Service topped 70 mph.

These offshore winds also raise temperatures to summerlike levels. Many areas have enjoyed temperatures well into the 80s.

California is also under the influence of a persistent upper-level ridge of high pressure anchored off its north coast that has also kept the region generally warm, dry and clear.

© 2014 Star Tribune