Firefighters Gain Upper Hand on California Blazes

By , Expert Senior Meteorologist
May 21, 2014; 3:38 AM ET
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Light winds and a cooling trend this past weekend assisted firefighters battling destructive blazes in California. The weather this week will be less extreme for the wildfire situation in California.

At one point last week, three dozen blazes were ongoing in San Diego County, California. Very little rainfall over the winter and a rapid temperature climb this spring accelerated the wildfire season in the Southwest.

Temperatures soared to close to 100 degrees along the coast on multiple days last week, thanks to strong offshore winds. Firefighters had their hands full with multiple rapidly spreading blazes.

Firefighter Jimmy Anderson, of Cal-Fire Lions Valley, pulls hose through a devastated home after a wildfire Friday, May 16, 2014, in Carlsbad, California. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Extreme heat and winds eased over the region this past weekend. High temperatures were in the 70s along the coast of Southern California.

This weather week will generally assist firefighters and deter new wildfires from starting in California, but brush will remain very dry and rain will not reach everywhere in the Southwest.

According to Western Weather Expert Ken Clark, "Temperatures will hover close to or below seasonable levels through this week with highs forecast to be in the 60s along the coast of Southern California and in the 70s and 80s over much of the Inland Empire."

Some moisture is on the way for the region beginning during the middle of this week.

According to Western Weather Expert Ken Clark, "Scattered showers and thunderstorms will reach the Sierra Nevada Tuesday through Thursday with higher humidity levels."

Snow covered the ground over the high country of the Sierra Nevada Tuesday morning.

While the amount of shower activity over Southern California is uncertain, the storm system moving in will be a slow-mover and is forecast to bring beneficial rainfall to areas farther east over the Southwest, including the southern Plains and West Texas.

RELATED:
Forecast Temperature Map
Fire Weather-Related Watches, Warnings
Ken Clark's Western Weather Blog

There is a slight concern that the incoming storm will trigger spotty mainly dry thunderstorms during the early stages of the storm system before humidity levels rise.

Thunderstorms can form when the air cools aloft and moisture feeds in at midlevels of the atmosphere faster than near the ground, but rain evaporates before reaching the ground. Lightning strikes that occur with the storms could spark new blazes, since the vegetation is very dry.

Gusty southwesterly winds will increase the fire danger ahead of the showers over the interior Southwest early this week.

Since Jan. 1, 2014, Cal FIRE had responded to more than 1,500 wildfires, which is nearly twice the annual average to date.

The Poinsettia and Bernardo fires were 100 percent contained by late Saturday.

The Poinsettia Fire near Carlsbad, California, burned approximately 600 acres according to city officials. Sixteen structures have been damaged or destroyed. This includes two 18-unit apartment buildings. The identity and cause of death of one person found in the aftermath of the fire has not been determined. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Bernado Fire burned through more than 1,500 acres in San Diego County, injured three people and threatened 50 structures. The cause of the fire was related to outdoor power equipment according to CAL FIRE. The fire was contained by Friday evening.

As of Sunday evening, the Cocos Fire near San Marcos, California, was 87 percent contained after consuming near 2,000 acres. The fire destroyed 40 structures and threatened an additional 35 structures at one point. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Miguelito Fire near Lompoc, Santa Barbara County, California, burned more than 600 acres and threatened 1,200 structures at one point. The fire has been contained and the cause is under investigation.

Additional fires continued to burn over the Southwest as of Monday, May 19, 2014, according to INCIWEB. These include the Signal Fire in the Gila National Forest, New Mexico, and the Skunk Fire in the San Carlos Apache Reservation, Arizona.

The Signal Fire has consumed nearly 6,000 acres and has been 70 percent contained. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Skunk Fire has charred nearly 24,000 acres and was started by lightning on April 19, 2014. The fire is 30 percent contained.

Even though cooler air and spotty showers will move into the region this week, people are urged to be extremely careful with outdoor power equipment and open flames. Do not park vehicles over dry brush.

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