Santa Barbara County will be under a red flag warning Wednesday from the National Weather Service for the fire weather trifecta: strong winds, warm temperatures and low humidity.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued warnings for interior areas of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday, though the warm and windy weather will last through the weekend.
The red flag warnings are aimed at the Santa Barbara County mountains and Cuyama Valley, according to Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. David Sadecki. He said the winds are coming from a low-pressure area near Idaho that is expected to drop into eastern California on Wednesday.
Wind speeds up to 40 miles per hour and gusts to 65 mph are likely in the windiest locations, and humidity is likely to drop below 15 percent on Wednesday.
“Despite the initially higher humidity, the strong wind potential will bring a potential for extreme fire behavior if a fire is started,” Sadecki said in a statement.
Temperatures are expected to peak at 71 degrees on Wednesday with winds all day, but the strongest winds are likely to be in the morning.
Fire weather specialist John Dumas in the Oxnard Weather Office has been talking with fire agencies all over the area about live fuel moisture and other concerns.
Winter storms two weeks ago did add a little groundcover, but the few inches of rain weren’t enough to boost moisture levels in the dry chaparral, Dumas said.
“Unfortunately we have nothing in the outlook showing rain down the line,” he said. “If you get a little bit of green from the last storm and no more rain, that’s something that’s going to dry up and become fuel for fires later in the summer.”
Weather will be warm and windy through the weekend with temperatures above normal, but it won’t break any records or cause more advisories, Dumas said. The rest of the week will have highs in the 70s, heating up on the weekend to 75 degrees on Saturday and 78 degrees on Sunday.
County Fire is concerned about high-fire-weather periods on Tuesday and Thursday even though they aren’t part of the warnings, Sadecki said.
He asks people to report any signs of smoke immediately, be extremely careful when operating any spark-or-flame-producing machinery in grass or brush areas, prepare an evacuation plan and report any suspicious people or vehicles to law enforcement.