LOS ANGELES (AP) — Just days into autumn, a summer-like heat wave descended Friday on California accompanied by strong winds and low humidity that brought increased fire danger to the parched state.
Powerful Santa Ana winds whipped up late Thursday, bringing down trees and knocking out power to residents in Los Angeles.
Potentially stronger northeasterly gusts up to 55 mph (89 kph) were expected into the weekend from Monterey south to San Diego, according to the National Weather Service.
Drivers were urged to use caution on mountain roads.
Temperatures climbed and could hit triple digits in parts of Los Angeles, the San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento. The San Francisco Bay Area was expected to see weekend sunshine and temperatures in the 70s and 80s.
Red flag warnings were issued in mountain and valley areas into Sunday, as forecasters predicted humidity levels could slip below 15 percent.
Fall often brings high fire danger to Southern California because of seasonal winds. Several years of drought have further heightened the flammability of brush.
“Traditionally, late September through mid-November is Santa Ana season,” Cal Fire Chief Thom Porter said. “Many of the state’s largest and most damaging wildfires coincide with this time of year.”
Longtime Pasadena resident Mona Teebay said she notices it every fall.
“The fire kind of affects your life,” the 57-year-old woman said. “You always have fall activities disrupted.”
Teebay said she believes poor air quality exacerbated by smoke from nearby wildfires caused her 23-year-old daughter to develop asthma as a baby.
And wildfires often forced her daughter’s summer camps to be cancelled, she said.
Some communities stationed additional fire crews in danger areas to deal with the increased risk.
The hot weather and gusting winds could make for difficult conditions for crews battling wildfires already burning, including two at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
A blaze that broke out Thursday forced the evacuation of buildings on the sprawling Central California base, several miles from another fire that has burned for several days.
To the north, a wildfire burning for two months on California’s scenic Big Sur coast surpassed $200 million in firefighting costs, becoming the costliest to fight in U.S. history, according to data released this week.
The fire in Los Padres National Forest blackened 185 square miles (479 sq. kilometers) of timber and brush.