Cold gusts up to 80 mph bring fire danger

File photo of a weather vane.
File photo of a weather vane.
Stock photo by Garry Knight via Flickr Creative Commons

Southern California is expected to see strong, dry winds with gusts of up to 80 mph heading into the weekend, raising the danger of wildfires.

The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning through Saturday evening for the Los Angeles coastal plain and the eastern San Gabriel Valley.

"When they're Santa Ana winds, they're very dry. So, when you get dry conditions and gusty winds, that's always a potential problem for that if a fire does get started, it could take off," said Kathy Hoxsie, a meteorologist with the weather service.

A windblown dust and ash warning was issued by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, warning that the strong winds could kick up dust in many areas and ash from brush fires that happened over the summer. Ash is particularly likely downwind of the location of the Sand Fire in Santa Clarita, the Blue Cut Fire in the Cajon Pass and the Reservoir and Fish fires near Azusa and Duarte. The warning is effective through Saturday.

The Santa Clarita Valley and the eastern valleys of Ventura County could see potentially damaging wind gusts of up to 60 mph, while the rest of L.A. and Ventura counties will see gusts of 40 to 50 mph. The peak gusts of 80 mph are expected in the Santa Monica Mountains, according to the weather service.

The cold air could help limit the fire risk Friday by keeping the humidity higher, but moisture levels could drop Saturday to critical levels.

Hoxsie also told KPCC people should take extra precautions while driving and should also bring in patio equipment and inflatable decorations.

This story has been updated.