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Saturday, July 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Fires spark across California in wake of red flag warning

That warning, stemming from high winds and low humidity, was extended in the Sacramento region until Tuesday.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — Weather conditions favorable to fire led firefighters across California to respond to a handful of blazes that sprung up over the weekend.

The Post Fire, in both Los Angeles and Ventura counties, is one of the biggest, spreading over 15,000 acres. It started Saturday afternoon and was 8% contained as of Monday. The cause of the blaze is unknown.

The blaze, near Hungry Valley State Park, started over the weekend with gusty winds and low humidity — conditions that are ripe for fires to start and spread easily.

Those conditions prompted the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning late last week in the Sacramento Valley. Initially set to last from 11 p.m. Saturday to 8 p.m. Sunday, it’s since been extended to 8 a.m. Tuesday. A red flag warning also is in effect for the Post Fire area in Southern California. It won’t expire until 6 p.m. Tuesday.

“We’re still experiencing northerly winds today and low humidity values,” said meteorologist Jeffery Wood, with the weather service, on Monday.

The culprit for the fire-prone conditions is an upper-level system moving slower than expected. It’s led to 40 mph wind gusts in the Sacramento Valley and humidity in the 10-to-20-percent range.

For Issac Sanchez, deputy chief of communications with Cal Fire, it’s the wind, low humidity and high temperatures that create dangerous fire conditions.

“Red flag warnings are something that happen quite a bit in California,” he said.

According to Sanchez, Cal Fire in its normal course of business has all its resources ready to respond. However, it increases its staffing levels when warranted by fire conditions.

While the red flag warnings are set to expire on Tuesday, weather conditions that could fan the flames will linger.

One of the fires that started over the weekend, the Jackson Fire, led to evacuations and road closures near Sacramento. Reaching almost 900 acres, it was 100% contained Monday morning.

Authorities used drones with heat-sensing capability overnight to scan the area for hotspots. As of 7:30 a.m. Monday, all evacuations and road closures were lifted, the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

No injuries were reported. Officials are working on an estimate of damages, district Battalion Chief Parker Wilbourn said in a text. Firefighters don’t yet know the cause of the blaze.

Other fires that sparked over the weekend include the Junes Fire in Butte County, at 1,076 acres and 95% contained. The Hernandez Fire in San Benito County was at 642 acres and 35% contained. The Hesperia Fire in San Bernardino County had burned 1,131 acres and was 30% contained, according to Cal Fire.

A fire that had potential for further growth on Monday was the Point Fire in Sonoma County. Starting on Sunday, it had reached 1,100 acres by Monday and was 20% contained.

The Point Fire also led to evacuation orders.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Mike McGuire, who represents the district the Point Fire is in, made updates on the fire in X. On Monday he pointed to the chance of strong winds as a factor that could cause the fire to grow.

Fire has long threatened California, especially in its rural areas that often have rough topography that makes it difficult for firefighters to access. However, the state over the past two years had relatively calm fire seasons.

There were almost 7,500 wildfires in 2022, which burned over 331,000 acres. In 2023, there were over 7,100 fires that burned some 324,000 acres.

In comparison, 2020 brought over 8,600 fires that burned 4.3 million acres. The following year saw over 7,300 fires and 2.5 million acres burned.

Categories / Regional, Weather

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