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Dry windy winter prompts fire danger warnings

December 19, 2013 4:46 pm

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High winds in the Bay Area have put fire crews on high alert and prompted warnings for residents.

Fire officials say the dry and windy weather is making for a tense next 24 hours.

Officials add that the cool months shouldn’t trick anyone into thinking there’s no fire danger – the risk is expected to increase Thursday night into Friday.

KTVU took a trip to Mount Diablo Thursday afternoon where gusts whipped through trees and brush, as humidity levels fell.  Conditions were all the more frightening because Thursday’s dry north winds come after an unusually long dry spell. 

“We’re still in fire danger right now we’ve had very little precipitation and what we did have this wind has dried out,” said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Mike Marcucci.

All it takes is one tree branch across one power line and neighborhoods in Lafayette that the state identified as some of the riskiest for fire could be in trouble.

“You’ve got trees that are already stressed you’ve got vegetation that hasn’t greened because we haven’t had enough rain,” said Robert Marshall, Contra Costa Fire District Fire Prevention Captain. 

Firefighters point to the Pfeiffer Fire in Big Sur, still burning as of Thursday evening. 

Fire officials say Northern California remains in extreme fire danger even the week before Christmas.

Cal Fire had extra staffing Thursday night, six weeks past normal stand-down.

After several days in a row, there was no ‘Spare the Air’ in the Bay Area Thursday, but open fires and mowing are still prohibited just as if it were a Summer Red Flag Warning.

Firefighters are asking for the public’s help especially Thursday through Friday.

They ask that if anyone sees downed or arcing power lines, or a transformer explosion, to call 911 before calling PG&E.  They say contacting emergency crews could possibly prevent a catastrophic wildfire.