Triple-digit temperatures, strong winds forecast this week 'elevate fire risk' in California – again
California fire crews, aided by cooler temperatures last week, gained the upper hand on two of the state's latest major wildfires.
The Zogg Fire was 99% contained and the Glass Fire was at 96% containment on Monday night, according to Cal Fire, a dose of welcome news for the thousands of people who were forced to flee their homes after the blazes sparked on Sept. 27.
It's too early, though, for Californians to breathe a sigh of relief. With temperatures rising again into the triple digits and strong winds in the forecast this week, officials warn this year's historic fire season may not be over.
"By midweek, we're actually expecting the wind to increase and the humidity to decrease, and so that trend is actually going to elevate fire risk across much of Northern California," Cal Fire Assistant Deputy Director Daniel Berland told USA TODAY on Monday.
A fire weather watch will be in place beginning Wednesday for Northern California's North Bay Mountains, East Bay Hills and the Santa Cruz Mountains until Friday morning. And, in Los Angeles, temperatures will be in the 90s and reach into the low 100s this week, according to the National Weather Service.
Meanwhile, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced a potential outage starting Wednesday in 21 counties "where dangerous weather is forecast."
But Berland and other fire experts said the state will likely experience elevated fire potential through the end of the year.
"October is generally a dry month for us and, unfortunately, if you look at our history, some of our largest fires and most destructive fires have actually happened in October," Scott L. Stephens, professor of fire science at UC Berkeley, told USA TODAY.
Of the top 20 deadliest California wildfires, nine burned in October, according to Cal Fire. The second deadliest blaze was Griffith Park in Los Angeles in October 1933.
Stephens said future potential fires will likely be caused by humans because "we're probably through our lightning period now."
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A cluster of 12,000 lightning strikes over several days caused more than 600 blazes in mid-August. Last week, California reached two alarming milestones: A single fire has burned 1 million acres, bringing the total acreage burned to more than 4 million — more than double the previous record.
But fire officials have made progress.
"We will have full containment on both the Glass Fire and the Zogg Fire by next week," Berland said.
There were 14 major fires and complexes burning in California as of Monday night, with six others nearing full containment, according to Cal Fire.
Contributing: The Associated Press