Southern California’s extreme heat raises concerns over wildfire season

by in News

The sweltering heat that roasted most of Southern California over the weekend will peak well past 100 degrees in some places by Tuesday, June 11, raising concerns about the risk of wildfires in the coming months.

Hot and dry winds driven by a ridge of high pressure traveling north from Mexico caused temperatures Sunday to reach or exceed 90 degrees in Riverside, San Bernardino and inland areas of Los Angeles and Orange counties, the National Weather Service said. A warming trend should continue until Tuesday or Wednesday.

“People should definitely limit the amount of time they are out and about in the sun and drink plenty of water, especially children and the elderly,” NWS meteorologist Adam Roser said. “Also, don’t leave pets, children or anything inside of a hot car.”

Weekend temperatures reached 90 degrees in Santa Ana, 97 in Chino and Temecula, and 100 degrees in Van Nuys, exceeding some NWS predictions. The temperature set a record for the date of 104 in Riverside on Sunday — breaking the record of 100 for June 9 set in 1994.

The heat was forecast to persist until Wednesday afternoon, at which point the high pressure system over Southern California should dissipate, Roser said. That will allow for gradual cooling into the weekend.

Coastal regions of Los Angeles and Orange Counties should see milder, more consistent weather over the next few days, NWS reports show. Beaches in Corona del Mar and Long Beach can expect temperatures in the upper 70s at the start of the week, tapering off into the high 60s and low 70s by Thursday. Readings in Malibu should fall gradually from a high of 67 on Monday to 62 on Thursday.

Extreme heat and winds gusting between 25 mph and 40 mph on Sunday prompted officials to warn of circumstances ripe for fire in the mountains, valleys and deserts of Los Angeles County, the NWS  said in a tweet posted at 9:43 a.m. Just a few hours later, at approximately 12 p.m., firefighters were dispatched to combat a blaze in Santa Clarita that burned 50 acres and led to the evacuation of Six Flags Magic Mountain, a nearby theme park. The National Weather Service said temperatures reached 96 degrees Sunday at Magic Mountain, with humidity dipping to 10% and winds gusting to 25 mph.

Additional smaller brush fires were tackled Sunday in the Los Angeles area and in San Bernardino County. Elsewhere, about 500 firefighters were battling a wildfire that erupted in Northern California Saturday afternoon and spread quickly across brush-covered hills. Cal Fire said the fire near the community of Guinda in Yolo County grew overnight to 2,200 acres.

High rainfall totals earlier in the year led to the growth of an abundance of brush, which has since dried out into a ready source of fuel. With hot, dry weather potentially blasting Southern California this summer, firefighters in Southern California are preparing for a busy wildfire season.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.