Fire weather gripped the Southland today -- the result of fierce Santa Ana winds, single-digit humidity and unseasonably high temperatures -- prompting the Los Angeles Fire Department to beef up firefighter strength at 10 stations and impose parking restrictions on narrow, hilly streets.
A red flag warning issued by the National Weather Service to alert the public to "critical fire weather conditions'' was in effect in much of Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange counties and scheduled to remain so until 8 p.m. Thursday.
"The combination of strong Santa Ana winds, widespread single-digit humidities and hot temperatures will bring an extended period of extreme fire danger to much of Los Angeles and Ventura counties,'' the NWS said in an advisory announcing the red flag warning.
"Damaging winds will be likely across the mountains and portions of the valleys in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, with peak gusts in the 60- to 80-mile-per-hour range.''
The strongest wind gusts recorded in Los Angeles County overnight and this morning included 61 mph in Whittier Hills and, in the San Gabriels, 57 mph in Warm Springs, 56 mph in Chilao, and 51 mph at Camp Nine, according to the NWS.
Under prevailing conditions, "if fire ignition occurs there could be rapid spread of wildfire that would lead to a threat to life and property.''
Gusty offshore winds will persist tonight and into Thursday, when the wind will be a little weaker, NWS forecasters said.
In Los Angeles County, the red flag warning applied virtually everywhere, but not the Antelope Valley. Specifically cited as red flag areas were the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains; the Angeles National Forest; the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and San Gabriel valleys; and the so-called Los Angeles coastal zone, which runs from Malibu to the Hollywood Hills and includes beach cities, downtown L.A. and the rest of metropolitan Los Angeles.
In the mountains -- both the San Gabriels and Santa Monicas -- winds were blowing at speeds ranging from 30 to 35 mph, with 70-mph gusts, said NWS meteorologists. Gusts of 80 mph are possible. But the winds are expected to taper down to the 25-35-mph range tonight, gusting to 60 mph, and remain at those levels through Thursday afternoon amid ``widespread single-digit humidity.''
In the valleys and in L.A.'s coastal zone, winds were expected to be generally in the 20-40-mph range, gusting to 60 mph.
The Los Angeles Fire Department responded to the conditions by announcing it ``will pre-deploy additional resources'' starting at 8 a.m., sending additional firefighters and equipment to 10 stations serving Porter Ranch, Bel Air, Beverly Glen, the UCLA campus, Sun Valley, Shadow Hills, La Tuna anyon, the Hollywood Hills, Encino, Woodland Hills, Sylmar, San Fernando (which is served by the LAFD even though it is outside Los Angeles), Laurel Canyon, Beverly Glen and West Hills, Chatsworth Lake and Canoga Park.
The Fire Department also imposed "red flag parking restrictions,'' with signs barring parking on streets that fire trucks otherwise might have difficulty navigating.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, meanwhile, issued a public reminder about the current heat wave and urged parents and pet owners to make sure neither kids nor animals are left in parked vehicles.
The weather service forecast sunny skies and highs of 78 in Palmdale and on Mount Wilson; 79 in Lancaster; 84 in Avalon; 88 in Saugus; 93 in Newport Beach and at LAX; 95 in Pasadena, San Gabriel and Woodland Hills; 96 in Burbank; 97 in downtown L.A.; 98 in Anaheim; and 100 in Long Beach.
An extended NWS forecast suggested high temperatures would persist through Saturday.
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