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High winds, dry weather puts California on alert for wildfires

Jan. 24, 2014 at 4:22 PM

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Red flag warnings have been raised across southern California amid fears gusty winds and dry conditions could become a recipe for spreading wildfires.

The warnings were issued through Friday evening as the National Weather Service said mountainous areas in Los Angeles and Ventura counties could expect winds out of the northeast at as much as 40 mph, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties could get southeasterly winds up to 50 mph, the weather service said, while high winds could also blow through San Diego and Orange counties.

Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said an "explosive" increase in brush fires was due to "bone dry" conditions this month. The department said personnel would be placed in wild land areas that were on high alert and that many of its air bases would be kept open.

The department has responded to nearly 300 wildfires since the first of the year that have burned more than 700 acres, Berlant said. The average for the month is about 50 fires that burn 100 acres.

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