Southern California firefighters being tested by record heat and windy conditions

On Saturday there is a slight chance of isolated dry lightning strikes across the eastern San Gabriel Mountains during Red Flag Warning conditions

Above: Photo taken from the back yard of the USFS District Office in Alpine, CA during the West Fire July 6, 2018. USFS photo.

(Originally published at 9:20 a.m. PDT July 7, 2018)

The predictions for record heat in Southern California were accurate Friday as high temperatures soared into the triple digits. In downtown Los Angeles the old record for the date was broken by 10:15 a.m. when it hit the previous mark set in 1992 of 94 degrees. By the end of the day it was 108. The temperature at UCLA reached 111 degrees, the hottest temperature ever recorded there.

Other record-setting daily temperatures Friday in Southern California:

  • 117 – Van Nuys Airport
  • 114 – Burbank Airport
  • 115 – Ramona
  • 118 – Riverside

Firefighters were challenged by not only the heat but dry winds as fires broke out in several areas.

As the temperature reached 109 degrees, U.S. Forest Service firefighters on the Cleveland National Forest found themselves in a structure defense mode at their District Office in Alpine, with the West Fire adjacent to the building’s back yard and the rest of the 400-acre blaze across the street. Live footage shot by a local TV station showed numerous structures were destroyed.

forest service district office fire
Photo taken from the front yard of the USFS District Office in Alpine, CA during the West Fire. USFS photo.

On the Santa Barbara coast sundowner winds pushed the Holiday Fire through the hills above Goleta, burning 10 to 20 homes according to fire authorities. Even into the night temperatures at the fire scene remained above 100 degrees.

holiday fire goleta
At the Holiday Fire, Santa Barbara County Fire Department firefighters apply water at a home off Fairview Avenue in Goleta. SBFD photo.

The Valley Fire that started Friday has burned at least 1,000 acres near Highway 38 on the San Bernardino National Forest. At last report it was headed into the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area. Mandatory evacuation are in effect for the Forest Falls Community east of the highway. Southern California Incident Management Team 2 will be assuming command.

Much of Southern California is again under a Red Flag Warning Saturday as the huge high pressure dome lingers over the area, bringing more of the same very high temperatures, 2 to 8 percent relative humidities, and gusty winds.

And just to make the situation more interesting, there is a slight chance of isolated dry lightning strikes across the eastern San Gabriel Mountains along with thunderstorm-driven winds.

map Red Flag Warnings, July 7, 2018
Red Flag Warnings, July 7, 2018.

West Fire burns numerous structures at Alpine, California

Above: The West Fire at Alpine, California. Screenshot from KUSI video.

(UPDATED at 4:37 p.m. PDT July 6, 2018)

CAL FIRE said the spread of the West Fire has been virtually stopped, but there is still quite a bit of active fire between structures that is threatening buildings. Firefighters will be working throughout the night to mitigate the threat.

(Originally published at 3:33 p.m. PDT July 6, 2018)

A destructive wildfire broke out during a heat wave in Southern California Friday. As the temperature in eastern San Diego County exceeded 100 degrees the West Fire started on the east side of Alpine and quickly spread through residential areas south of Interstate 8.

At 3:30 p.m. the fire had burned approximately 350 acres.

In viewing video shot by KUSI News, it appeared that many structures were likely victim to the flames.

There may have been a close call involving an inmate crew. The tweet below has an unfortunate choice of words, but the crew appears to be moving as rapidly as possible away from advancing flames.

The screenshot below from the KUSI video (at -41:20) was probably just after the crew “escaped” the flames only to have to confront traffic on the busy lanes of Interstate 8 which appeared to be fully open. They can be seen running at first.

inmate crew west fire alpine
An inmate crew appeared to have a close call on the West Fire on Interstate 8 at Alpine, CA July 6, 2018.

The video, if you can deal with the constantly panning camera, shows many examples of structures burning. I skimmed through and while I saw a couple of places with retardant on the ground, I only saw one air tanker, a 1,200-gallon S-2T, making a drop. I didn’t see any helicopters, but there could have been many aircraft that I missed or didn’t appear in front of the camera. Eight air tankers were reloading with retardant at Medford, Oregon Thursday while fighting the Klamathon Fire just south of the California/Oregon border.

West fire alpine CA
West Fire. Screenshot from KUSI video.
West fire alpine CA
West Fire. Screenshot from KUSI video.

From the photos below it appears that the fire burned up against the back yard of the USFS Descanso Ranger District office at 3348 Alpine Blvd. and was also very active across the street.