Alpine

Santa Ana Winds, Low Humidity, Red Flag Warning May Pose Challenge for Valley Fire

A red flag warning remains in effect for San Diego’s inland valley, foothills and mountains through 8 p.m. Wednesday.

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Gusty winds set to peak Wednesday morning will continue to create risky, fire-prone weather in San Diego County, posing a challenge for crews tackling the fifth day of the fight against the Valley Fire.

A red flag warning issued by the National Weather Service Tuesday remains in effect through 8 p.m. Wednesday for strong winds and low humidity. The NWS said the winds from the east-northeast would peak in the morning, mainly in the foothills.

Gusts between 20 and 45 mph were expected, and gusts up to 55 mph were possible in the windiest locations. NBC 7 meteorologist Sheena Parveen said this would be a recipe for Santa Ana conditions and high fire danger.

“That offshore wind is going to continue through most of today,” Parveen explained, adding that by Wednesday evening those gusts would subside.

Parveen said temperatures across the county would be hotter Wednesday than they were Tuesday. The Valley Fire burning 17,565 acres in San Diego’s East County near Alpine would continue to impact the county’s air quality – especially with those offshore winds – and, of course, create smoky skies.

“We still may have some issues with some smoky skies – kind of hazy – from the Valley Fire,” Parveen said. "Air quality as of 4 a.m. today is already poor across much of the county."

The NWS said the lowest humidity was expected to be between 5 and 10 percent in the mountains and inland areas.

“Conditions will be favorable for rapid fire spread and extreme fire behavior,” the NWS said.

Cal Fire/San Diego County Fire Authority Chief Tony Mecham said his agency knows what they’re up against as they continue to work to get a handle on the Valley Fire. He called the Valley Fire a “sleeping giant” in San Diego’s backcountry with potential to explode again due to the Santa Ana winds.

The Valley Fire tripled in size in just three days but Santa Ana winds have the potential to be the most hazardous element in the fire's arsenal.

The NWS expected “good recovery in humidity” towards San Diego’s coast Wednesday night and moderate recovery in inland areas.

Parveen said temperatures will be slightly cooler this weekend, but the heat is expected to return next week.

The windy conditions throughout California have stoked unprecedented numbers of fires that have forced rescues and evacuations.

The Valley Fire, which began around 2:15 p.m. on Sept. 5, has led to the evacuation of more than 1,400 San Diegans. At least 20 homes have been destroyed by that fire. One couple in Jamul shared their heartbreaking story of loss with NBC 7 here.

For the latest updates on the Valley Fire – which, as of Wednesday morning, was 11% contained – follow this story here. The cause of the Valley Fire is under investigation.

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