Weekend Forecast: Santa Ana, Fire Weather in San Diego County

A combination of hot temperatures, low humidity and Santa Ana winds will put San Diego under a Fire Weather Watch on this first weekend of fall 2016

It may be the first weekend of fall but in San Diego, temperatures are expected to rise as the county remains under a Fire Weather Watch.

NBC 7’s Whitney Southwick says Saturday will bring the first Santa Ana event of the season to San Diego. He forecasts a rise in temps and drop in humidity levels, plus strong, gusty winds from the northeast blowing towards the coast.

This results in conditions known to quickly fuel wildfires.

Cal Fire captain Kendal Bortisser says this time of year is one of the most dangerous times for fires.

“The majority of our really damaging wildfires have occurred in the fall and late September through November,” he said.

To that end, the National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a Fire Weather Watch for parts of the county, including San Diego’s mountains – specifically the Palomar and Descanso Ranger Districts of the Cleveland National Forest and the San Gorgonio Pass near Banning.

The Fire Weather Watch for those areas will be in effect from late Saturday night through Monday afternoon. The Fire Weather Watch is also in effect for the Santa Ana mountains including the Trabuco Ranger District of the Cleveland National Forest, from 7 a.m. Friday through Sunday afternoon.

The NWS said winds are expected to be between 20 and 30 mph, with gusts up to 60 mph. The strongest gusts will likely hit Sunday and Monday. The lowest levels of humidity – 5 to 10 percent – are expected Sunday and Monday as well.

If a fire develops in these conditions it has serious potential to spread rapidly. Outdoor burning of any kind is discouraged, according to the NWS. The Fire Weather Watch may be elevated to a Red Flag Warning as the weekend plays out.

"We need to ensure that we have all the resources in place...attack from the air and from the ground," Bortisser says.

In preparation, Cal Fire officials confirmed Friday that the agency has increased firefighter staffing across California over the next several days as Santa Ana winds sweep in.

"Traditionally, late September through mid-November is Santa Ana season," said Chief Thom Porter, CAL FIRE Southern Region Chief, in a press release. "Many of California’s largest and most damaging wildfires coincide with this time of year."

Tips on how to prevent wildfires and prepare your family for this type of emergency can  be found on this website created by Cal Fire.

The NWS has also issued heat and wind advisories for parts of San Diego County this weekend. The heat advisory, in effect from 11 a.m. Sunday through 8 p.m. Monday, covers the following communities: Vista; Carlsbad; Encinitas; Chula Vista; National City; Costa Mesa.

Temperatures are expected to be in the 80s Sunday near the coast and around 95 near the mesas. On Monday, temps will be in the upper-80s near the coast to the upeer-90s near the mesas.

The NWS said the rising temperatures could lead to heat-related illness, so strenuous activities should be scheduled for early morning or evening. Wear light and loose-fitting clothing and drink plenty of water.

The wind advisory is in effect for the San Diego County valleys – including Escondido, El Cajon, San Marcos, La Mesa, Santee and Poway – through 4 p.m. Sunday. The strongest winds in those areas are expected to hit Saturday night through Sunday below passes and canyons and near the coastal foothills, according to the NWS.

At 1:15 p.m., the NWS confirmed San Diego's fire weather will be elevated to a Red Flag warning beginning at 12 a.m. Sunday, effective through 3 p.m. Monday.

The NWS said gradual cooling is forecasted for Tuesday, with greater drops in temperature Wednesday.

Watch NBC 7 News at 7 a.m. Sunday, and NBC 7 News at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday for the latest weather updates. You can also get weather updates here.

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