Strong winds sweep California, fueling fires

Dec 23 2011 - 11:02am

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Caltrans workers Ray Riestra, from left, Art Amaya and Tony Rodriguez, fight the heavy winds along the westbound 210 freeway transition to the southbound I-15 freeway in Fontana, Calif. after gusty winds blew over a semi truck on Thursday, December 22, 2011. (AP Photo/The Press-Enterprise, Stan Lim)
Firefighters stand by a large pine tree that fell across a city street in Glendale Calif., caused by high winds on Thursday Dec. 22, 2011. Gusty winds raked California toppling a tractor-trailer truck and hurling 64-mph gusts through the mountains. However, no major damage was immediately reported, and forecasters said the gusts wouldn't match the hurricane-force blasts that caused millions of dollars in damage to Southern California last month. (AP Photo/Mike Meadows)
A man looks through a camera while sitting on a roof across the street from an apartment fire in the Western Addition area in San Francisco, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011. A large fire pushed by strong winds has engulfed at least three buildings near San Francisco's historic Alamo Square. A pillar of thick smoke is rising into the sky over the neighborhood more than an hour after the blaze started just before noon Thursday. The five alarm blaze brought at least 120 firefighters to battle the flames at two apartment buildings and at least one other structure. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Firefighters and police officers keep watch over an apartment fire in the Western Addition district in San Francisco, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011. A large fire pushed by strong winds has engulfed at least three buildings near San Francisco's historic Alamo Square. A pillar of thick smoke is rising into the sky over the neighborhood more than an hour after the blaze started just before noon Thursday. The five alarm blaze brought at least 120 firefighters to battle the flames at two apartment buildings and at least one other structure. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Two firefighters attack an apartment fire in the Western Addition district in San Francisco, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011. A large fire pushed by strong winds has engulfed at least three buildings near San Francisco's historic Alamo Square. A pillar of thick smoke is rising into the sky over the neighborhood more than an hour after the blaze started just before noon Thursday. The five alarm blaze brought at least 120 firefighters to battle the flames at two apartment buildings and at least one other structure. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Caltrans workers Ray Riestra, from left, Art Amaya and Tony Rodriguez, fight the heavy winds along the westbound 210 freeway transition to the southbound I-15 freeway in Fontana, Calif. after gusty winds blew over a semi truck on Thursday, December 22, 2011. (AP Photo/The Press-Enterprise, Stan Lim)
Firefighters stand by a large pine tree that fell across a city street in Glendale Calif., caused by high winds on Thursday Dec. 22, 2011. Gusty winds raked California toppling a tractor-trailer truck and hurling 64-mph gusts through the mountains. However, no major damage was immediately reported, and forecasters said the gusts wouldn't match the hurricane-force blasts that caused millions of dollars in damage to Southern California last month. (AP Photo/Mike Meadows)
A man looks through a camera while sitting on a roof across the street from an apartment fire in the Western Addition area in San Francisco, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011. A large fire pushed by strong winds has engulfed at least three buildings near San Francisco's historic Alamo Square. A pillar of thick smoke is rising into the sky over the neighborhood more than an hour after the blaze started just before noon Thursday. The five alarm blaze brought at least 120 firefighters to battle the flames at two apartment buildings and at least one other structure. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Firefighters and police officers keep watch over an apartment fire in the Western Addition district in San Francisco, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011. A large fire pushed by strong winds has engulfed at least three buildings near San Francisco's historic Alamo Square. A pillar of thick smoke is rising into the sky over the neighborhood more than an hour after the blaze started just before noon Thursday. The five alarm blaze brought at least 120 firefighters to battle the flames at two apartment buildings and at least one other structure. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Two firefighters attack an apartment fire in the Western Addition district in San Francisco, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011. A large fire pushed by strong winds has engulfed at least three buildings near San Francisco's historic Alamo Square. A pillar of thick smoke is rising into the sky over the neighborhood more than an hour after the blaze started just before noon Thursday. The five alarm blaze brought at least 120 firefighters to battle the flames at two apartment buildings and at least one other structure. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LOS ANGELES -- Strong winds swept up and down the California coast Thursday, stoking fires in San Francisco and Ventura and leaving overturned trucks, uprooted trees and damaged gas lines in their wake.

Just weeks after record winds shredded the San Gabriel Valley, the National Weather Service again issued high wind warnings with gusts in Southern California's mountain regions reaching up to 60 mph.

In Ventura County, a 45-acre fire broke out in a rural area Thursday afternoon. Six agencies deployed a combined 100 firefighters and two helicopters to battle the blaze. Fire officials said no structures were in danger, and no injuries had been reported. The fire was about 50 percent contained at 7 p.m. Thursday and full containment was expected overnight.

"We have a full-out attack on it," Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Bill Nash said. "The winds are a concern."

Meanwhile, on the 210 Freeway in San Bernardino County, winds flipped a Superior grocery big rig and a FedEx truck. The gusts also uprooted a 100-foot pine tree in a north Glendale neighborhood. The toppled tree also damaged gas lines and forced the temporary evacuation of four homes, but no injuries were reported, officials said. In addition, the downed tree has blocked Burritt Way, which may remain closed until Friday, city officials said.

In San Francisco, two people were injured by a fire that broke out in a three-story apartment building and spread rapidly because of winds up to 20 mph.

San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White said at least 50 to 60 people were evacuated as the fire spread through a three-story, 28-unit complex; a single-family dwelling, and a vacant school.

Crews battled the blaze for nearly three hours before gaining control. One civilian was taken to a hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation, and a firefighter was treated for burns to the neck, Hayes-White said. Neither injury was believed to be life-threatening.

A small brush fire was also reported in Vallejo, near San Francisco.

The causes of the fires across the state were still under investigation, but officials agreed that the winds exacerbated the situation.

"This is about as strong as it gets around here," Monterey-based National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Canepa said about the winds.

Canepa said the easterly winds originated in a high-pressure system over the Great Basin and were funneled west over the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The wind warnings and advisories for Southern California will expire by Friday afternoon, according to weather specialist Stuart Seto from the weather service's Oxnard office. On the wind's heels is a weekend warmup that will peak with temperatures in the 70s on Sunday.

"No white Christmas," Seto said. "Christmas Day will be the warmest."

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

 

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