California Wildfires: Hot weather, lack of rain raise concerns about wildfire hazards

LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. (KABC) — The combination of hot weather and a lack of rain that has left hillsides in valley areas covered in arid vegetation is raising concerns about the increasing risk of wildfires.

As of late Saturday night, crews in Riverside County were still working to put down a bushfire that broke out in the Lake Elsinore area.

According to a tweet from CAL FIRE and the Riverside County Fire Department Saturday night, the fire spread for several acres and burned along Main Divide Road.

No buildings were threatened.

“It seems very early,” Sun Valley’s Phillip Robertson said. “I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley all my life and it seems very early for fire season.”

Another bushfire earlier this week in Laguna Niguel caused devastation after strong winds quickly pushed the flames towards residential areas, allowing the fire to rage.

The fire destroyed 20 homes and damaged nearly a dozen others. Mandatory evacuation orders remain in effect.

RELATED | Couple reunited with priceless wedding photo rescued by firefighters battling Laguna Niguel wildfire

“I live here in the valley and we’ve been evacuated a couple of times,” Sylmar’s Lorraine Diaz said. “That’s why I like it now. It’s not windy because when it gets windy it gets worrying.”

Nationwide, more than 2,000 square miles have burned so far this year — the most since 2018, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Forecasts for the remainder of spring bode ill for the West as climate change-induced drought and warmer weather increase wildfire threats tighten.

Even small fires that once would have been easy to contain are now posing extreme threats to life and property because of climate change, said Brian Fennessy, chief of the Orange County Fire Authority.

The cause of the Laguna Niguel fire is under investigation and damage inspections are ongoing Thursday, said TJ McGovern, deputy chief of the Orange County Fire Department.

Southern California Edison reported that unspecified electrical “circuit activity” was occurring around the time the fire broke out late Wednesday afternoon.

Electric utility equipment has been repeatedly linked to starting some of California’s most catastrophic wildfires, particularly in windy weather.

The state Public Utilities Commission last year approved a settlement of more than half a billion dollars in fines and penalties for SoCal Edison for its role in five wildfires in 2017 and 2018.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Chrissy Callahan

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