A fire danger sign in Northern California. Courtesy City of Hayward

Strong and gusty Santa Ana winds, low humidity and warm temperatures will persist Monday, with a red flag warning in effect for San Diego County mountains and valleys.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning that went into effect at 6 a.m. Sunday in the county mountains and valleys and lasts until 5 p.m. Wednesday. The weather service also issued a high wind warning that remains in effect until 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Along with low humidity levels, the strong Santa Ana winds blowing northeast are to blame for the fire danger, with winds of 20 to 30 mph in the forecast and gusts of 60 mph possible in the county mountains and foothills. Winds are expected to increase to 30 to 40 mph with gusts of 70 mph possible Monday evening through Tuesday morning.

Humidity levels will remain in the single digits Monday with no recovery overnight, according to the Santa Ana Wildfire Threat Index. Fuels are very dry and fires will grow rapidly, burn intensely and be difficult to control upon ignition.

Warm seasonal temperatures were also expected to add to the potential fire danger. High temperatures Monday will be 75 to 80 degrees in the western valleys, 66 to 71 near the foothills and 54 to 62 in the mountains, weather service forecasters said.

A San Diego Fire-Rescue Department brush rig. Courtesy of the department

The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department announced increased staffing beginning Monday at 8 a.m. with five brush engines, each with a crew of four firefighters, standing by for 24 hours in anticipation of the increased fire danger.

“We’ve got you covered San Diego,” Fire Chief Colin Stowell tweeted. “Winds will be extreme in the next day or so and if a wildfire starts in our city, you may have only minutes to evacuate.”

As of 7:30 a.m. Monday, San Diego Gas & Electric shut off power to around 6,100 customers in the Descanso, Buckman Springs, Julian, Ramona and Pine Valley areas as a safety precaution because of the high winds and low humidity, SDG&E spokesman Joe Britton said.

The outages could last until the red flag warning expires Tuesday afternoon and four resource centers are available for residents affected by the outages.

The resources center are located at:

  • Mountain Empire High School Gymnasium, 3305 Buckman Springs Road, Campo
  • Potrero Resource Center, 24550 Highway 94, Potrero
  • Camp Oliver Lodge, 8761 Riverside Drive, Descanso
  • Golden Acorn Casino & Travel Center, 1800 Golden Acorn Way, Campo

With the heightened fire danger, authorities recommended that residents avoid outdoor burning, using lawn mowers or power tools outside and have emergency preparedness kits in order.

“An emergency can happen at any time,” a forecaster said in a statement on the Santa Ana Wildfire Threat Index Website. “Clean debris away from your house. Charge your cell phone and make sure you have plenty of gas.”

In Los Angeles and Ventura counties, Santa Ana winds drove a large wildfire that prompted the evacuation of at least 75,000 homes, officials said. The Woolsey fire, which broke out Thursday afternoon, has scorched 85,500 acres and destroyed at least 177 structures.

Cal Fire projected full containment of the blaze won’t come until Nov. 17.

Updated at 11 a.m. Nov. 12, 2018

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.