Wildfire burns in hot, dry, windy Southern California

California Wildfire

Firefighters battled a wildfire in the inland mountains of Southern California on Friday as Santa Ana winds brought dry and unseasonably hot weather that heightened fire danger in a region where little rain has fallen this winter.

The Bonita fire erupted shortly after 1 a.m. and grew to 600 acres (243 hectares) before dawn, triggering evacuations in Mountain Center, a tiny community in the San Jacinto Mountains about 90 miles (145 kilometers) east of Los Angeles.

The blaze burned in heavy vegetation, including pine trees, Cal Fire/Riverside County said in a statement.

Temperatures around the region, meanwhile, warmed to summerlike highs in the 80s and low 90s (26.6-32.2 Celsius).

A second surge of Santa Anas was expected Saturday, followed by another early next week that may usher in colder weather, forecasters said.

It is peak Santa Ana season so the wind events are not unusual, but “it is unusual how dry we are,” National Weather Service meteorologist Alex Tardy said in a video briefing from San Diego.

More than 95% of California is experiencing moderate, severe, extreme or exceptional drought, the U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday. The remainder — stretching east and south of Los Angeles to the U.S.-Mexico border — is considered abnormally dry.

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