'Very Hot' Weather, Fire Danger Forecast For the Southland


LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Southland, with the exception of the Antelope Valley, was under a red flag warning today, signifying a high risk of wildfire amid a heat wave, gusty Santa Ana winds and low humidity.

The warning, reflecting ``a long-duration fire weather threat,'' will be in effect through Wednesday, with the most critical fire conditions expected today through Tuesday, according to a National Weather Service statement. A risk of wildfire also exists in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, the NWS reported.

``The duration, strength and widespread nature of this Santa Ana wind event combined with the extreme heat and very dry fuels will bring the most dangerous fire weather conditions that Southwest California has seen in the past few years,'' warned the statement. ``If fire ignition occurs, there will be the potential for very rapid spread of wildfire'' and ``extreme fire behavior,'' which could lead to ``a threat to life and property.''

The red flag warning will be in effect until 6 p.m. Wednesday in the San Gabriel Mountains in L.A and Ventura counties, the forest that spread over the mountains -- the Angeles National Forest in L.A. County and Ventura County's Los Padres National Forest -- the Santa Monica Mountains, the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and San Gabriel valleys, and the Los Angeles coastal zone, which includes beach cities, metropolitan Los Angeles, Downtown L.A. and the Hollywood Hills. The Antelope Valley was the only L.A. County region not under a red flag warning.

NWS forecasters said gusty north-to-northwest of 15 to 30 mph gusting to 35-40 mph would blow through the San Gabriels and the Angeles National Forest through tonight, rising to 20-35 mph with gusts of 50-60 mph Tuesday. At the same time, the humidity level will be between 7 and 15 percent and the temperature in the lower 90s. Roughly similar conditions will prevail in other areas under a red flag warning, although valley temperatures will be in the mid to high 90s.

``With these prolonged weather conditions and the very dry fuels/vegetation, extreme fire behavior is likely if any fire ignition begins, threatening life and property,'' warned an NWS statement. ``The public should be very, very careful with any potential ignition sources such as welding and brush clearing equipment, as well as campfires and cigarettes.''

In effect Monday are excessive heat warnings or slightly less severe heat advisories in coastal and most valley areas of Los Angeles and Ventura counties through Tuesday, including on Santa Catalina Island, as well as wind advisories through Wednesday. The high heat was attributed to strong high pressure combined with warm Santa Ana winds.

The weather service stressed the health risks arising from high heat and urged residents to protect themselves and those around them, including by never leaving people or pets in parked cars, whose interiors can quickly heat up to lethal temperatures, even with windows cracked open.

In response to the forecasted heat, the Long Beach Unified School District announced that all of its schools will be on a ``minimum day schedule,'' meaning students will be released early, on Monday and Tuesday. Parents were urged to contact individual schools for information about exact release times.

Cal/OSHA, meanwhile, issued a reminder to employers across the state about protecting outdoor workers.

``Heat waves can occur well into autumn in California, so it's important to remind employers of their responsibilities to protect workers from heat- related illness,'' Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum said. ``Our goal is to prevent illnesses and deaths caused by exposure to heat.''

Cal/OSHA urged workers experiencing possible overheating to seek out shade until the symptoms recede. Workers with existing health problems or medical conditions such as diabetes were urged to be extra vigilant. Some high blood pressure and anti-inflammatory medications can also increase a worker's risk for heat illness.

The NWS forecast sunny weather Monday and highs of 87 on Mount Wilson; 89 in Palmdale; 90 in Lancaster; 93 in Avalon; 95 in Saugus; 99 at LAX; 101 in San Gabriel; 102 in Downtown L.A., Pasadena and Burbank; 103 in Woodland Hills; and 104 104 in Long Beach. Tuesday's temperatures will be similar, though Tuesday's will slip by around six degrees, ushering a cooling trend.

Sunny skies were also forecast in Orange County, along with highs of 85 in San Clemente; 86 in Laguna Beach; 87 in Newport Beach; 101 in Mission Viejo; 103 in Irvine; 104 in Yorba Linda; and 105 in Fullerton and Anaheim. Tuesday's highs will be the same or marginally lower. A cooling trend will get underway Wednesday.


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