Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Advisories issued as temperatures soar and lightning sparks brush fires [Updated]

July 15, 2010 |  5:33 pm

Thunderstorms on Thursday afternoon rumbled across San Diego and Riverside counties, sparking a series of brush fires as officials issued warnings due to soaring triple-digit temperatures and high humidity.

The National Weather Service issued a significant weather advisory due to strong thunderstorms that were rumbling across the San Jacinto Mountains. Hail as big as pennies and winds up to 50 mph were possible, the agency said.

The weather service advised people in inland areas across Southern California to avoid prolonged exposure to the sun and to drink water to avoid heatstroke and heat exhaustion.

[Updated at 6:02 p.m.: The weather service has issued a significant weather advisory for the Antelope Valley as a strong thunderstorm moved toward the Palmdale area late Thursday afternoon. Lightning, heavy winds and large hail were possible.]

In rural northeastern San Diego County, mid-afternoon lightning strikes caused four brush fires. The largest occurred in the Scissors Crossing area, spreading to more than 100 acres. The fires were not threatening any structures, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.
Heavy rain helped slow the spread of the fire, which was being fought by ground crews, air tankers and helicopters. “Things are looking good,” said a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman.
Within the San Diego city limits, a fire in a brushy canyon in the University Heights neighborhood began heading toward homes on the rim of the canyon, forcing evacuation of about 20 homes and a nearby hotel. The fire sent smoke over Interstate 8 and portions of Mission Valley but firefighters and water-dropping helicopters stopped the advance of the fire before it reached the rim.

In Riverside County, the lighnting strikes caused about a half-dozen fires near Temecula and Sage, officials said. The fires ranged from less than an acre to 200 acres, the Riverside County Fire Department said.

The 200-acre blaze was burning rapidly near Temecula by Crown Valley and De Portola roads, officials said. Shortly before 5 p.m, 100 firefighters were attacking the blaze but no air support had arrived, according to the Fire Department.

"We're trying to catch up," department spokeswoman Cheri Patterson said.

No evacuations had been ordered in the Riverside County blazes. The hot weather was expected to last through the weekend, according to the weather service.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego and Robert J. Lopez in Los Angeles

Photo: Firefighters battle a brush fire in northeastern San Diego County. Credit: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection