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California Wildfire Threat: Hurricane-Force Wind Gusts Whip in Southern Cal

Weather.com and Associated Press
Published: October 5, 2013

LOS ANGELES — Hurricane-force wind gusts were roaring across Southern California Saturday, pushing the wildfire threat to a dangerous level.

Meteorologists say the conditions create a classic set up for wildfires, and any small fire has the potential to be a nightmare.

"October is notorious for California wildfires," says Weather.com meteorologist Jon Erdman. "The largest wildfires on record in the state was the Cedar Fire in San Diego County in October 2003, charring 273,000 acres, over 2800 structures, and claiming 14 lives."

Fierce winds stoked several small fires across Southern California on Saturday, forcing 260 residents and hospital patients to evacuate at a military base, causing a key freeway junction to shut down and damaging cars and homes.

AP Photo/Nick Ut

Firefighting operations in California will not be affected by the government shutdown if wildfires ignite this weekend in hot, dry and windy conditions.

In northern Los Angeles County, traffic in the Newhall Pass came to a standstill when a 15-acre broke out on a hillside north of the junction of Interstate 5 and State Route 14. The freeways were closed in all directions for about 90 minutes, according to City News Service.

Wind gusts of 65 mph were reported near the area of the fire.

To the west in Ventura County, a semi truck went off U.S. 101 in Oxnard and crashed into a car dealership parking lot, causing a fire that spread to several vehicles in the lot, officials said.

The truck driver said wind was a factor in the crash, Oxnard police Cmdr. Martin Myer said. He said strong winds also fanned a fire Friday night that destroyed four buildings in an Oxnard complex and displaced 78 people.

In Orange County, winds knocked down a power line in Tustin Saturday morning, touching off several small brush fires that caused damage to one home, fire officials said.

The winds also shut down the annual Tustin Tiller Days festival early, the Orange County Register reported. Tents, tables and trash cans were getting blown away, and an 8-year-old girl suffered a minor head injury when a plastic panel came off of a carousel ride.

The powerful Santa Anas kicked up late Friday and a National Weather Service red flag warning of extreme fire danger for the entire region says the wind event will last until Sunday evening.

The weather service called the situation the region's "most significant fire weather threat in the past five years." Temperatures were unseasonably high, reaching in the 90s in many coastal communities, with humidity levels in the single digits.

MORE: Western Wildfires

In this photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service, fire crew members stand watch near a controlled burn operation near Yosemite National Park in Calif., Sept. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/U.S. Forest Service/Mike McMillan)

  • Groveland, Calif.
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  • California Rim Fire
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