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Red flag warning may lead to local power cuts

City News Service | 10/11/2019, midnight

The National Weather Service (NWS) said this week that gusty Santa Ana winds and “very low humidity’’ will combine to create “widespread critical fire weather conditions’’ in much of the Southland through this afternoon.

Given an abundance of dry vegetation, “critical fire weather conditions are expected,’’ the NWS said in a statement.

As a result, roughly 30,700 Southern California Edison (SCE) customers in areas such as Lancaster, Palmdale, Acton, Lake Los Angeles, Agua Dulce, Santa Clarita and in Canyon Country face possible cuts in power because of ongoing red flag warnings.

The red flag warning will be in force in the San Gabriel and Santa Monica mountains and the Angeles National Forest—areas where winds blowing at a sustained 25 to 45 mph are expected, along with 70-mph gusts and humidity levels of 3-10 percent—through this evening.

The warning will also be in force at the same time in the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and San Gabriel valleys, along the L.A. County coast and in metropolitan Los Angeles, including Downtown L.A. Additionally, it will be in effect in much of Ventura County, including the Los Padres National Forest adjoining the Angeles National Forest, and in coastal Orange County through tonight.

“If fire ignition occurs, conditions may be favorable for extreme fire behavior, which would threaten life and property,’’ according to the statement.

SCE, meanwhile, cautioned some customers that they could lose power. It said it may order “Public Safety Power Shutoffs’’ aimed at reducing fire risks. Edison officials noted this week that the power cuts—which would de-energize lines that might be in danger of being damaged and igniting fires in high-wind conditions—are only “under consideration.’’

According to the utility, more than 106,000 customers throughout SCE’s service area live in the neighborhoods being considered for potential rolling power cuts.

Cal Fire announced that it is increasing staffing over the weekend to be prepared for potential wildfires, but the Los Angeles Fire Department did not order red flag parking restrictions on narrow hilly streets.

“With some of the most destructive and deadliest fires occurring October through December, we need Californians to not be complacent,’’ Cal Fire Chief Thom Porter said. "Wind-driven fires move fast, and residents need to be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice in the event of a wildfire. We have increased our staffing, but need the public to remain vigilant. It is important to follow evacuation orders and leave early as fires move very fast under these conditions.’’