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Wildfire Season Underway In Southern California Following Record Heat, Historic Drought

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A historic drought (which ended earlier this year), and last week's record heat wave (almost sounds fake, doesn't it) have made conditions ripe for brushfires. Firefighters are now battling two major wildfires in Santa Clarita and Riverside County.

In Santa Clarita, where temperatures hit triple digits on Sunday, a fire began after a motorist crashed into a tree near the 14 Freeway and Placerita Canyon Road. The blaze saw 400 firefighters on the scene, and by Monday some 870 acres were scorched, and the fire was at 57% containment.

"Temperatures are dropping, humidity is up, and the winds are what they are," a representative of the Los Angeles County Fire Department told LAist on Tuesday. "We're at 760 acres and 75% containment, now."

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In Riverside County, another car crash ignited a fire. This time, near Lamb Canyon, several miles east of Lake Perris along the 79 Freeway. The two motorists involved in the crash were taken to an area hospital, notes the Los Angeles Times. Meanwhile, triple-digit heat, low humidity, and 35 m.p.h. wind gusts helped turn the flames into the Manzanita Fire.

“Those are very favorable conditions for spreading a fire,” Greg Martin of the National Weather Service told the Times. “The only way to make it worse were if winds were a little stronger but that’s about it.”

By Tuesday morning, the fire had grown to 5,000 acres, and the Riverside County Fire Department reports that the blaze is currently 20% contained.

1300 firefighters are on the scene, which includes 28 engine companies, eight air tankers, and three helicopters.

"It's not as hot today and the winds aren't as much, so, hopefully that should work in our favor," a representative of the Riverside Fire Department told LAist on Tuesday.

And in Granada Hills, where temperatures hit 102 on Monday and humidity has been low, a brush fire broke out in the canyons above Zelzah Park. By evening, the LAFD reported the fire was contained before structures were destroyed. No injuries have been reported.

"It can always be a bad year for fires in Southern California," Marti Witter, a fire ecologist with the National Park Service, told LAist. "The biggest complicating factor this year is the preceding four years of drought, and all the dead standing wood—which are not trees." Witter added that, according to estimates, about 50% of vegetation in Ventura County are dead.

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"Fires that start in these dieback years can spread more quickly and get out of control fast," Witter said, adding that most fires in the area are started by human causes. "In the Santa Monica Mountains [for example], fires are frequently associated with roadside edges."

"As it gets hotter and drier (and the winds come in the fall), people should be most concerned about preventing ignition," Witter told LAist. She cautioned against using weedwackers to clear grasses (which sparked last month's Mandeville Canyon fire), and other potentially ignitive actions.

[Updated 5:10 p.m.]
A wildfire that began Tuesday afternoon north of Highland along Highway 330 and the San Bernardino National Forest, has already triggered mandatory evacuations for area residents, notes the San Bernardino Sun. At 4:30 p.m., the U.S Forest Service stated that the Mart Fire had grown to 300 acres.