Hot weather, return of Santa Ana winds prompts more fire warnings

RIVERSIDE – High temperatures and low humidity return to Riverside County today while Santa Ana winds are set to buffet the region west of the mountains over the weekend and increase the potential for wildfires.

The warmest weather is expected Sunday, when forecasts call for highs of 91 to 97 in Riverside and Lake Elsinore, 86 to 94 in the Santa Ana Mountains and foothills, 88 to 93 near the San Gorgonio Pass near Banning, and 91 to 96 in the Coachella Valley.

The weather west of the mountains should remain relatively pleasant with clear, sunny skies. High temperatures today will be 82 to 87 in Riverside and Lake Elsinore, 73 to 79 in the mountains, 88 to 93 near the San Gorgonio Pass and 90 to 95 in the Coachella Valley.

The fire danger will increase beginning Saturday morning and continuing until Sunday, according to forecasts from the National Weather Service and United States Forest Service. But the dangerous conditions will be confined to the western part of the county and not affect the Coachella Valley.

“Temperatures will heat up and humidity will plummet west of the mountains this weekend as Santa Ana winds develop over parts of the Inland Empire and adjacent mountains,” the NWS said.

Winds are expected to gust up to 30 or 40 mph beginning Sunday in parts of the Inland Empire, while humidity levels will drop to between 5 and 10 percent, according to the weather service.

“The locally gusty winds combined with heat, low  humidity and very dry fuels will create critical fire weather conditions,” the NWS said.

A fire weather watch, which is slightly less serious than a red flag warning, will go into effect at 10 a.m. Saturday and last until noon Sunday for the Inland Empire, Riverside County valleys and the Santa Ana Mountains including the Trabuco Ranger District of the Cleveland National Forest.

According to the Forest Service’s Santa Ana Wildfire Threat Index, any wildfires that erupt Saturday or Sunday in Riverside County “may grow rapidly” due to the Santa Ana winds. San Diego County will be under the same threat level over the weekend, while the danger will be slightly elevated Saturday and Sunday in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, where any fires that start “will grow rapidly and will be difficult to control.”

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