California Hit With 2nd Day of Stifling Heat, Wildfire Risk

LOS ANGELES (AP) -

Southern California firefighters scrambled to put out small fires Tuesday before withering Santa Ana winds could whip them into conflagrations as a fall heatwave gripped the region.

Los Angeles fire crews jumped on several small fires that erupted along the north edge of the city as gusts blasted through nearby mountains. One fire brought morning rush hour traffic to a halt on the State Route 118 freeway until it was extinguished.

About 50 miles to the east, Riverside County crews aided by helicopters battled a lumber yard fire that spread over several acres. Also in the inland region, a wind-driven fire disrupted traffic near the interchange of State Route 210 and Interstate 15.

The day started out extra hot and dry as the Santa Anas kept overnight temperatures in the 80s and 90s in some areas following a siege of triple-digit heat on Monday. Relative humidity levels also stayed low, leaving vegetation susceptible to fire.

Downtown Los Angeles, which hit a record 102 on Monday, was already at 99 degrees before noon Tuesday and a handful of locations near the coast were over 100.

The strong offshore winds were being caused by unseasonably strong surface high pressure over western Montana and a trough of low pressure along the California coast, the National Weather Service said.

As air flowed from the interior of the West and across Southern California, some gusts were hitting 60 mph, the service said.

Many schools were put on short-day schedules because of the high heat.

Santa Ana winds can occur any time of year in Southern California but are common in the fall. They have been involved in some of the most destructive wildfires that have hit the region because of the high wind speeds and extreme dryness.