State of Emergency declared in Southern California counties amid deadly wildfires

Oct. 12 (UPI) — The strong winds that fanned the flames of multiple fires in Southern California are subsiding, however, AccuWeather Forecasters report low humidity levels and rising afternoon temperatures will combine with local breezes up to 35 mph to warrant high fire danger.

At least eight blazes continue to burn across the state of California on Saturday morning.

A red flag warning has been extended into the weekend for much of the region. The critical fire danger warning will be in effect for the Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area, Los Angeles County mountains, Angeles National Forest, and the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys until 6 p.m. on Saturday.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles County and Riverside County due to the wildfires on Friday afternoon.

Southern California Edison shut off power to more than 21,000 customers in an effort to reduce the risk of the windblown fires exploding in growth due to coming in contact with downed power lines.

The planned Public Safety Power Shutoff was smaller in scale than the one instituted by Pacific Gas & Electric in Northern California on Wednesday. About 312,000 PG&E customers remain without power, while 412,000 have been restored.

The largest blaze, the Saddle Ridge Fire ignited and grew exponentially in just a matter of hours on Thursday in a densely populated area just north of Los Angeles. The fire was reportedly 150 acres at 2 p.m.,, but 2 hours later, it had grown to 500 acres, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

The fire quickly engulfed 7,542 acres by Friday, jumped two freeways, and closed parts of another, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

On Friday, California Newsom secured a Fire Management Assistance Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will help make resources more readily available to fight and recover from the Saddleridge Fire.

The LAFD confirmed the Saddleride Fire is responsible for one fatality as a one person suffered cardiac arrest and died after being taken to a local hospital. One firefighter was treated for a minor eye injury.

At least 1,000 firefighters and eight helicopters are battling the fire. At least 31 structures have been damaged or destroyed, but officials did not specify how many were homes.

As of Saturday morning, the flames were burning 7,552 acres and only 19 percent contained.

Meanwhile, the Sandalwood Fire ignited when a trash truck dumped burning garbage sparking the blaze which resulted in the loss of 76 structures thus far, mainly homes at a hilltop mobile home park, according to fire officials.

The Sandalwood Fire is responsible for one fatality after the fire raged through a mobile home park on Thursday, Cal Fire spokeswoman Cathey Mattingly said.

As of Saturday morning, the flames were burning 823 acres and 25 percent contained.

A 350-acre wildfire, named the Reche Fire in Moreno Valley, Calif., started with a trailer fire that jumped into surrounded vegetation, propelled by intense Santa Ana winds, officials with the Riverside county Fire Department said.

As of Saturday morning, the flames were burning 350 acres and 85 percent contained, with no homes or other structures threatened, fire authorities said.

The cause of the Reche Fire is still under investigation.

Crews gained significant ground on the Wendy Fire in Ventura County on Friday, which has burned 91 acres and is 80 percent contained.

Firefighters will continue to have their hands full as prime conditions for fires continue.

“While not as windy, local gusty will result in critical fire weather conditions which will lead to rapid fire spread and extreme fire behavior in any active fires with conditions primed for new fires to flare up,” LeSeney said.

According to Leseney, highs in the 80s to near 90 on Saturday combined with single digit relative humidity levels will create tinderbox dry conditions, which refers to something that is so dry that it could catch on fire very easily.

“Fire weather conditions will improve Sunday. It will remain rather dry, but an onshore wind and cooler temperatures will help to alleviate the fire threat. However, that threat is not zero,” LeSeney said.

“The public is urged to use extreme caution with any potential fire ignition sources. Fires in the past have begun from things like discarded cigarettes, metallic lawn care and tool use, and campfires,” LeSeney said.