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Winds are starting to pick up again—‘any area in Los Angeles that has brush is threatened’

Extreme winds expected to return today

Southern California Wildfires Forces Thousands to Evacuate
The Creek Fire was fanned yesterday by Santa Ana winds. Those winds are expected to surge again.
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Editor’s note: This story was originally published December 6. It has been updated with the latest information.

The battle to keep homes in Los Angeles from succumbing to wildfires will be complicated and intense today as epic Santa Ana winds kick up after abating Wednesday.

Forecasters are predicting gusts of 50 to 80 miles per hour in the mountains and valleys today. Meanwhile, “minimum humidities of 6 to 12 percent will be common through at least early next week,” according to the National Weather Service.

The worst fire-fighting conditions are in store today; winds are forecast to subside tomorrow, though a Red Flag warning is in effect through Saturday.

It was the wind that sent the Skirball Fire roaring up the hillsides along the 405 and into Bel Air this morning. It was the wind that rapidly pushed the Creek Fire across the Valley on Tuesday.

As of Thursday morning, neither blaze was significantly contained, though fire officials did say calmer conditions Wednesday had helped keep the fires at bay.

But increased wind speeds today will “fuel the fires we already have in place and also make it critical for more fires to come,” says National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Boldt. The strength of the winds “can drive a fire in ways that is unimagined able for most of us,” says Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell.

Weather Service forecasters say wind speeds combined with “extremely low humidity” are a recipe for “very high fire danger.”

Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas says the brush burning index for today is higher than he’s ever seen it in his 31-year career. The department looks at past rainfall, the weather forecast, and “dead vegetation fuel moisture content” to predict fire risk.

The highest rating is anything above 162. Today, it’s 296.

“Any area in Los Angeles that has brush is threatened,” says Garcetti. “We’re warning people even as we see progress, these are extreme conditions and embers can be carried as far as 1 mile, as we saw in Northern California.”

This summer, fire officials predicted that this year’s fire season could be a particularly devastating for Southern California.

Heavy rains earlier this year meant a growth boom for plants that fuel wildfires.

“It’s been at least 10 years since we’ve seen this kind of growth because of the rain, and the problem is that the grass is now dried out and it doesn’t take much to get a fire going,” Ventura County Fire Department Captain Richard Sauer told the Simi Valley Acorn in June.