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Dry, Windy Halloween Weekend Brings Fire Weather Watch to California

Fire weather watches will be in place in parts of California this Halloween weekend as Santa Ana conditions blow through the state.

Lower humidity levels and high wind speeds, both characteristics of the Santa Ana offshore winds, are elements that contribute to favorable fire weather conditions. The National Weather Service (NWS) identifies varying levels of fire “danger” in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, with “critical” danger in Santa Clarita, Fillmore, Westlake, Acton and Pyramid Lake.

Although fire season is already well underway this year, California is currently below its five-year average in terms of total area burned. An estimated 312,739 acres had burned so far in 2023 as of Oct. 23, according to data from the CAL Fire and U.S. Forest Service. This is higher than the total number of acres (289,391) that burned last year, but lower than the five-year average of 1,570,571 acres burned.

Areas near Oxnard and Big Pine Mountain were reported as “high, near critical” danger, with elevated fire danger levels extending north toward San Luis Obispo County.

Above, winds blow over a palm tree as a helicopter arrives for a drop of water during the Lilac Fire December 8, 2017 in Bonsall, California. Parts of California are under a weather watch this weekend as Santa Ana’s first major weather event of the fall arrives.
ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

The NWS Los Angeles office is warning residents that the weather will present hazardous conditions. “Residents in high fire risk areas should prepare NOW if they are called to evacuate,” NWS Los Angeles said in a message posted Friday on X, formerly Twitter.

The foothills from Cajon Summit to central Orange County could see wind gusts between 45 and 65 miles per hour Sunday, an NWS San Diego meteorologist said. News week. Wind gusts in the Los Angeles and Oxnard areas are expected to peak between 35 and 50 miles per hour, with possible isolated wind speeds of 60 miles per hour, according to NWS Los Angeles.

Farther north in the Bay Area, the NWS has issued a Red Flag Warning for Saturday and Sunday in the North Bay, East Bay, Santa Clara Hills, Santa Cruz Mountains and coastal San Mateo. Red flag warnings are also in place in the Sacramento Valley and western Sierra foothills, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL Fire).

A Red Flag Warning is issued when dry, windy weather creates “critical fire concerns,” according to an NWS advisory. Red flag warnings and other fire alerts do not mean that wildfires are inevitable, but indicate that weather conditions are ideal for them to start if they do start.

South of Los Angeles, weather experts don’t expect Santa Ana’s conditions to hit San Diego as hard. The region’s strongest wind conditions will likely arrive Sunday evening and last through Monday morning, the local meteorologist said.

Santa Ana conditions tend to peak in Southern California in mid-December, although the San Diego NWS said News week it’s a little late in the season for this region to be facing its first major event in Santa Ana.

In an article published Friday on X, CAL Fire urged Californians to prepare in case wildfires break out in their area during Santa Ana weather.

“California is susceptible to burning year-round and preparation is essential regardless of the timeline,” the state agency said. “Most wildfires are human caused, so do your part to prevent wildfires.”