SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — On the day that the largest wildfire in California history was declared totally contained, weather forecasters issued a red flag warning for the fire-ravaged North Bay region starting Wednesday night.
A high pressure system was building over the Pacific, triggering a warming trend through Saturday. Temperatures in some part of the Bay Area will soar into the 90s with winds at 20 mph and higher and plunging humidity levels.
Those ideal fire conditions — soaring temperatures, gusty winds and low humidity — have forced the National Weather Service to issue a red flag fire warning for the higher elevations of Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties starting late Wednesday night through at least 5 p.m. Thursday.
“Any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly,” forecasters warned. “A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures can
contribute to extreme fire behavior.”
Forecasters predicted the strongest northerly winds would whip through the North Bay Mountains as well as the East Bay Hills and Diablo Range and the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Meanwhile, the Sonoma County Sheriff Department also issued its own warning.
“Outdoor burning is not recommended,” the agency said. “Downed power lines could lead to new fires.”
Calfire said it was positioning fire crews to be able to quickly react to any new wildfires.
“Locally that (a red flag warning) will mean a pre-positioned Strike Team of CAL FIRE engines from outside the Unit and all hand crews and bulldozers will be staffed 24 hours a day,” the agency said in a release.
Ironically, the warning came on the same day the U.S. Forest Service declared the Mendocino Complex fires — the largest wildfire in California history — 100 percent contained.
The twin fires erupted in July in Lake County and before the flames were halted 720 square miles (1,865 square kilometers) of brush and timber was scorched, 157 homes destroyed, one firefighter killed and several others injured.
The blazes prompted the evacuation of thousands of people in Mendocino, Lake, Colusa and Glenn counties. Authorities were still investigating what ignited the fires.
It was also nearly a year since the state’s deadliest outbreak of wildfires raged in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties. The wind-whipped wildfire tore through wine country, killing 22 people and destroying more than 5,500 structures.