Wednesday, November 25 , 2015, 8:08 pm | Fair 51º

Expected Gusty Winds Have Fire Crews on Alert

By Tom Bolton, Noozhawk Executive Editor | @tombol |

Dry conditions and expected gusty winds have fire officials in southern Santa Barbara County on heightened alert.

A wind advisory will be in effect from 9 a.m. Thursday until 9 a.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

North winds of 20 to 30 mph are expected, with gusts to 45 mph.

The advisory will be in effect for the South Coast, as well as the county's mountain areas, forecasters said.

With the gusty conditions and parched vegetation, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department is adding three engines, one bulldozer, one water tender, a battalion chief and a dispatch captain to its normal staffing, according to Capt. David Sadecki.

Similarly, the Montecito Fire Protection District is adding two brush trucks and an additional dispatcher, spokeswoman Geri Ventura said.

"In addition to the wind event, the live fuel moisture in our area is at 56 percent," Ventura said. "When the fuel moisture is below the critical level of 60 percent, it is more conducive to rapid fire growth, and can make fire suppression extremely difficult.

"The combination of the predicted wind event and critical fuel moisture levels will result in elevated fire danger across our community."

The Montecito department will have volunteers at local trailheads to educate hikers about the critical conditions and hiking safety.

Both Ventura and Sadecki urged the public to immediately report any signs of smoke by calling 9-1-1, and report any suspicious persons or vehicles to law enforcement.

There is no rain in sight for the Central Coast, with forecasters calling for clear skies through the middle of next week.

Daytime highs around 70 are expected, with overnight lows in the mid-40s.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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