Winds gusting to 60 mph were pounding the Montecito foothills early Friday, and the National Weather Service issued a high-wind warning through 6 a.m.
The weather service said gusty conditions are expected to persist through midmorning as strong winds aloft combine with surface high pressure to the north. A similar wind pattern is possible through Sunday.
Friday morning winds of 25 to 35 mph are forecast to taper off to 5 to 10 mph in the afternoon. Sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70s are expected.
The gusty winds and dry conditions have fire officials on heightened alert along Santa Barbara County’s South Coast.
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.
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.”
She said the department will have volunteers at local trailheads over the weekend 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 in the mid-70s are expected, with overnight lows in the mid-40s.
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