Hot, dry and windy conditions forecast for Southern California

Southern California residents can expect hot, dry conditions this weekend along with light but persistent winds, which firefighters said played a role in spreading a brush fire in Laguna Niguel this week that burned 200 acres and destroyed 20 multimillion-dollar homes.

The warming trend follows several days of below average temperatures for the region, but the mercury will reach into the 90s in inland and valley areas on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

Though winds are expected to be lighter over the weekend than what the region has seen in the last few days, humidity levels are expected to drop across Los Angeles and Orange counties as Santa Ana winds blow from inland areas out to the sea, drying vegetation in the process, forecasters said. The winds that fueled the Laguna Niguel fire were offshore winds.

“Things will really dry out on Friday,” NWS meteorologist Lisa Phillips said. “We’re supposed to have offshore flow that will dry up the region significantly.”

Starting today, temperatures will climb into the high 70s and mid 80s for most of Southern California’s inland areas and jump into the high 80s on Friday, according to the forecast.

Temperatures are expected to increase eight to 12 degrees across much of the region starting Friday. Wind gusts are forecast to reach 20 to 25 mph around canyons and foothill areas and up to 25 to 35 mph in mountainous areas. Friday and Saturday are expected to be the hottest days during the warming trend, officials said.

“It’s a brief warmup and a typical up and down sort of event,” meteorologist James Brotherton from the National Weather Service in San Diego said. “This is not going to be too extreme, but it will be noticeable after it’s been so cold over the last few days.”

On Wednesday night, strong offshore winds barreled toward the coast and helped fan the flames that exploded into the Coastal fire in Laguna Niguel. The fire quickly spread in large part to the wind gusts.

Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Greg Barta said the wind helped spread embers across the exclusive beachside neighborhood.

“When you have a fire that’s wind driven like that with significant flame links that is moving so quick, the minute you get that flame up against a home or you get embers into the attic vents it’s really hard to control that,” Barta said. “Our firefighters did a great job. A lot of additional homes could have been lost had we not gotten in there so quickly.”

By Thursday morning, the winds seemed to have died down as firefighters worked to contain the blaze.

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