Wind, warmer weather on tap
Firefighters who battled the Marek and Sayre wildfires in the San Fernando Valley will be honored today with a barbecue in Sylmar, just as wind advisory and red-flag warnings for the area are scheduled to take effect.
Winds are expected to increase through the day in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and Ventura counties, especially in valleys, mountains and canyons. Gusts are expected to reach up to 70 mph in the mountains, according to the National Weather Service. Saturday and Sunday are forecast to be clear, with highs in the upper to lower 80s.
Red-flag warnings also have been issued by the weather service to fire departments in most of Ventura County and parts of L.A. County. The warnings tell firefighters to be on alert for fire danger.
The barbecue will be hosted by Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district includes the burn area, and will be held at El Cariso Park, in one of several foothill communities forced to evacuate during last fall's wildfires. The barbecue, scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., will give residents a chance to thank firefighters for their work, said Joel Bellman, a spokesman for Yaroslavsky.
The Marek fire, named after Marek Canyon, broke out in October near Little Tujunga Road, burning through 4,824 acres and destroying 38 mobile homes at the Sky Terrace Mobile Lodge, as well as four other structures. The fire also killed a homeless man and his dog, authorities said. It burned in the same area damaged by the Loop fire in 1966, when 11 firefighters -- part of an elite team called the El Cariso Hotshots -- were trapped by flames and killed.
The Sayre fire broke out Nov. 14 north of Sylmar, burning about 17 square miles and destroying more than 500 structures. The blaze roared through the Oakridge Mobile Home Park, damaging 90% of the community. The fires forced officials to close the 210 and 118 freeways, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency. Hundreds of residents lost homes to the fires, and thousands were forced to evacuate.
-- Ruben Vives
Photo: Residents survey the fire-gutted Oakridge Mobile Home Park. Credit: David McNew /Getty Images