Santa Ana winds, dangerous heat will raise wildfire threat

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SAN DIEGO -- Cool and fairly mild weather is on tap for most of San Diego County Friday with a slight chance of drizzle.

The pleasant weather will give way to ferocious, possibly record-setting heat Sunday through Tuesday when low humidity levels and Santa Ana winds will have the region on high alert for wildfires.

The National Weather Service issued a Fire Weather Watch that will go into effect Saturday and continue into Tuesday for gusty winds, very low humidity and record hot temperatures.

Much of the coastal and inland valley areas of San Diego County have forecasted highs of 98-106 Monday, with high temperatures peaking Tuesday.

Cal Fire announced Friday it would boost its staffing levels in preparation for "critical fire weather conditions."

"Though Cal Fire has year-round staffing in Southern California, these conditions have warranted adding additional resources for the duration of the Fire Weather Watch that brings an elevated threat of wildfire," Cal Fire San Diego Unit Fire Chief Tony Mecham said.

Cal Fire officials warned that the chance of wildfires created by the hot, dry weather and Santa Ana winds will be exacerbated by fuels that are "very dry and will support significant fire activity should an ignition occur."

The steps Cal Fire will take to prepare for the dangerous weather include calling all Cal Fire San Diego personnel back to work -- even those who have been or still are battling the deadly blazes in the north of the state.

Cal Fire San Diego officials will also:
-- Utilize San Diego County Fire Reserve firefighters to increase staffing on all front-line fire engines and to staff five county water tenders.
-- Fund the City of San Diego and the North Zone to each staff a strike team of wildland fire engines.
-- Open the Brown Field Reload Base at the Otay Mesa airport and stage two large air tankers there.

Cal Fire officials have also made contact with state firefighting officials in Baja California "and are prepared to use our agreement with Mexico if needed." And Cal Fire personnel have been assigned to the Navy and Marine Corps "in the event military helicopters are needed" as part of a Defense Support to Civilian Authorities immediate response agreement.

Fire officials asked San Diego County residents to "be extra cautious during the heightened fire danger period in order to prevent wildfires," reminding the public that "one less spark means one less wildfire."

The state firefighting agency is particularly concerned about the upcoming fire weather, given the wildfire emergency in Northern California, where 42 people have been killed.

Continuing Coverage: California Wildfires

Since October 8, there have been 21 major wildfires that burned over 245,000 acres, forced 100,000 people to evacuate and destroyed 6,900 structures