SANTA ANA (AP) — Firefighting operations in California will not be affected by the government shutdown if wildfires ignite this weekend in hot, dry and windy conditions, fire officials said Friday.
Firefighters with the U.S. Forest Service, who would battle blazes that start on national forest land, are exempt from furloughs that have hit hundreds of thousands of other federal employees this week, said Daniel Berlant, a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman.
Almost all of the Forest Service's seven firefighting aircraft are also in California now because fire season is winding down elsewhere in the West, he said.
"We've been assured that we'll see no impact," Berlant said.
State fire officials have moved "strike teams" into position in anticipation of fire outbreaks; called hundreds of firefighters in from off-duty and have 23 firefighting aircraft standing by, he added.
Spokespeople for the national forests that brush up against the outer edges of suburban Los Angeles and surrounding counties were furloughed and unavailable for comment.
Hot, dry Santa Ana winds with gusts topping 50 mph buffeted the mountain and foothill areas of Southern California on Friday, raising fire danger in the parched region.
Los Angeles just emerged from its sixth-driest year in 135 years of record-keeping and less than one-tenth of an inch of rain has fallen in Los Angeles since July 1, said William Patzert, a climatologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Those arid conditions plus gusting, off-shore winds — known locally as Santa Anas — could create extreme fire danger, he said.
"Every year we have what I call the Santa Ana rain race. That means, who comes first? Right now, rain is not even at its starting block and the Santa Anas are off and running," he said. "The fuels are super-dry and this is a pumped-up Santa Ana — it's early and it's nasty."
Red flag fire danger alerts were posted for much of Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, as well as other areas.
The notorious Santa Anas are caused by air rotating around surface high pressure over the Great Basin, heating and speeding up as it descends through mountain passes and canyons of Southern California.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power told its customers that there could be service outages from tree branches and other flying debris bringing down power lines.
Los Angeles also declared a red flag condition, which bans parking in certain areas where roads are narrow, curved and fire hazard is deemed very high. The effort is aimed at maintaining access for Fire Department vehicles.
The city of Pasadena announced Thursday night it was putting parking restrictions into effect for narrow and winding roads leading into and out of the San Gabriel Mountains that abut the city.