SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — Hundreds of firefighters supported by water-dropping helicopters held a wildfire to less than 10 acres early Thursday despite dangerously gusty and dry Santa Ana winds blowing through Southern California's parched canyons and passes.
Despite no open flames, crews continued to work the burn area to prevent the fire from rekindling, cutting lines around the area.
The blaze was reported shortly before 10:30 p.m. Wednesday near state Route 118 in the Santa Susana Pass, northwest of Los Angeles. Firefighters poured in from Ventura and Los Angeles counties and the adjacent city of Los Angeles.
Winds were gusting to 25 mph, according to National Weather Service observations, but the quick stop meant homes didn't need to be evacuated.
Santa Ana winds, typical of fall and winter and a major factor in some of Southern California's most disastrous wildfires, continued to blow Thursday, and relative humidity levels plunged to single digits, robbing vegetation of moisture that helps suppress fire activity.
So-called red flag warnings for fire danger were extended until midmorning Friday. The Santa Anas were expected to significantly diminish by Friday afternoon, but conditions were expected to remain very dry and warm, the weather service said.
California continues on track to close out 2013 as a historically dry year. Just 3.6 inches of rain have fallen in downtown Los Angeles since Jan. 1. On average, downtown would have 14.33 inches of rain to date.
Meteorologists more often measure the region's precipitation in a "rain year" from July 1 to June 30 to capture the wet period at the end of one year and beginning of the next. But even by that measure, downtown LA's meager total since July 1 is just barely greater than the 3.21 inches that fell downtown in 2006-07 to set the record for driest rain year.
Similarly, downtown San Francisco has recorded just 5.59 inches of rain since Jan. 1, more than 17 inches less than normal. San Diego is more than 4 inches below average after recording only 5.57 inches since the beginning of the year.