With the season’s first Santa Ana winds beginning to roll in, locals are on high alert as they prepare for the possibility of extreme fire danger.
Santa Ana winds are expected in San Diego Thursday, creating increased fire danger. The inland valley, including Ramona and the East County, as well as the mountains, have a high wind watch -- which could make driving difficult.
The National Weather Service stated winds could reach up to 60 mph and the red flag warning is in effect until Saturday afternoon.
Weather conditions has prompted CAL Fire to increase staffing throughout the next few days, according to officials.
The winds are due on the nine-year anniversary of the massive Cedar Fire, which claimed so many lives and homes in San Diego in late October of 2003.
For concerned and experienced residents, the red flag warning from fire officials about the winds is something they pay close attention to.
Cal Fire Captain Mike Mohler says the warning is not to be taken lightly.
“It could be the perfect storm. I hate to use that term, but we are. Everything is in alignment,” said Mohler.
The looming fire season weather means high temperatures, humidity in single digits and wind gusts reaching up to 55 mph.
Cal Fire crews are also prepared for dried-out fuel beds and newer vegetation growth stemming from spring rains.
Capt. Mohler says firefighters are taking precautions as they prepare to battle potential fires.
“[We have] additional engines [ready], hand crews, aircrafts -- just in case we do have that fire,” said Mohler.
The fire danger is supposed to last through Saturday, so firefighters from all over Southern California are on high alert.
“This week in October, we've seen some of the largest wildfires in California history and that's why we tell people, just because it's fall, don't have that false sense of security,” said Mohler.
Local residents who experienced tragedy in the wildfires of 2003 and 2007 say their memories always keep them concerned during fire season.
“We were very close. We almost lost the house,” recalled Scripps Ranch resident Ken Robertson. “I think it was within seconds, it was about to go.”
Cal Fire officials want to remind residents to maintain their defensible space around homes. Also, officials say residents should not barbecue Thursday through Saturday, just in case, and be extremely careful with cigarette butts.