By Mary O’KEEFE
This week has been eerily reminiscent of nearly seven years ago when there were big puffy clouds in the sky, bright orange sunsets and everything smelled like smoke.
The fires that brought to mind the Station Fire of 2009 started along the San Gabriel area above residents in Duarte and Azusa. On Monday two fires began, the Reservoir Fire and the Fish Fire. Both fires are now known collectively as the San Gabriel Complex. As of Wednesday at 6 p.m., the fire had charred 4,900 acres and 1,404 personnel were battling to get it under control and contained. As of press time containment was at 10%.
“Both fires are still under investigation,” said Michael McCormick, Los Angeles County Fire Dept. spokesman.
The heat has been a factor for firefighters but the rugged terrain has also been very difficult.
During the fire 858 homes were evacuated, but at a Wednesday morning press conference, L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept. announced that in the City of Duarte evacuees of 534 homes could return. Residents in the BrookRidge Area north of Royal Oaks Drive, east of Green Bank Avenue and west of Encanto Parkway would also be able to return to their homes.
Today the firefighters will be facing not only heat but also low humidity and a Red Flag Warning.
“There will be a Red Flag Warning [today] from 11 a.m. until Friday 6 a.m. in the mountains of L.A. and Antelope Valley,” said Stuart Seto, weather specialist, National Weather Service. “This means low humidity and winds (sustained) at 25 to 35 miles per hour and gusts up to 50 miles per hour.”
The winds will be coming out of the north to northwest. Red Flag Warning indicates critical fire conditions.
The wildfires in California may be more of a glimpse of the summer to come as high temperatures and low humidity seem to be the average as the Pacific moves out of the El Niño phase (a heating of the ocean at the equator) to the La Niña phase (a cooling of the ocean at the equator).
The promise of an El Niño last fall and winter was of rain – lots of rain – but that didn’t exactly turn out as predicted.
“We didn’t get anything we expected,” Seto said.
California is now in its fifth year of an official drought. Last year Southern California received half of its normal rain inches.
“The mountains did get a good snow pack,” Seto said. “But it will still be 2019 before the Sierras catch up, if they continue to get the snow [they have been receiving].”
Northern California did better than Southern California in rainfall but that still is not enough to float the state out of the drought. And now with La Niña the prediction is above average temperatures, like those that have been experienced this week.
There will be some cool days sprinkled among the hotter ones; however, it will still be a hot summer.
“The hot days are hotter [then normal] and cold is still above normal,” Seto added.
Due to the low humidity and high temperatures it is even more crucial that homeowners practice abatement to give firefighters defensible space.
Temperatures today are expected to be a low of 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and a high of 88. Temperatures continue to climb with Friday’s temperature expected at 92 degree F and Saturday and Sunday arrive with a possibility of triple-digit temperatures.