A red flag fire danger warning outside a fire station in Valley Center. Courtesy OnScene.TV

Gusting Santa Ana winds and dangerously dry conditions are expected to return to the region Thursday, prompting forecasters to issue a red flag warning of critical fire danger that will continue into Friday.

The warning went into effect 9 p.m. Wednesday and will be in place until 6 p.m. Friday for San Diego County mountains and inland valleys.

According to the National Weather Service, the forecast calls for east winds of 20 to 30 mph, with gusts reaching 55 mph, and some isolated gusts as high as 65 mph in “wind-favored” locations.

Humidity levels will fall to between 5% and 10%.

“Any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly,” according to the NWS. “Outdoor burning is not recommended.”

The winds are expected to diminish by the weekend, along with a gradual recovery in humidity.

On Thursday, San Diego Gas & Electric switched off power to communities — or slightly over 2,000 customers — as part of a planned outage in response to the red flag warning.

As of 8 a.m., these communities were affected: Alpine, Boulevard, Campo Reservation, Cuyapaipe Reservation, Descanso, Jamul, La Jolla Reservation, Pala, Pauma Reservation, Pauma Valley, Potrero and Viejas Reservation.

According to SDG&E, power is expected to be restored by 5 p.m.

Capt. Frank Lococo of Cal Fire said that save for a small spot fire Wednesday evening off Interstate 8 in Alpine, there have no reports of any blazes.

Lococo said that Cal Fire is prepared to respond, with five additional engines on loan from Northern California. He also urged residents to celebrate Thanksgiving in a safe manner.

San Diego County government officials on Wednesday asked residents to stay alert for wildfires, and refrain from using power tools outdoors, including lawn mowers, as they can potentially spark on rocks and ignite grass or brush fires. Instead, residents should use hand tools to remove dead or dying plants near their homes.

The county also reminded residents to maintain defensible fire space around their homes and remove dead leaves, debris and other flammable items, such as wood piles, that are stacked against structures.

During a high-fire season, people should also:

— be careful with smoking materials to avoid accidentally starting a fire;

— never pull their vehicle over in grass as it can ignite a blaze, and make sure their vehicle is well maintained; and

— if their vehicle has a trailer, make sure its chains don’t drag on the ground while driving.

–City News Service

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