SAN DIEGO -- Gusty winds and continued dry weather have caused wildfires to flare up in portions of California, including one blaze in San Diego County that exploded in size over the weekend. And the fire threat is not over yet, according to forecasters.
A brush fire, dubbed the Southern Fire, flared up in the community of Shelter Valley, California, near Anza-Borrego Desert State Park late Saturday afternoon.
The fire was spreading at a "critical rate" shortly after it began, according to CalFire San Diego, exploding in size from 40 acres to 800 acres in about an hour's time as high winds made their way through the region. As of Sunday night, the fire had burned over 6,500 acres and was 25% contained.
The Southern Fire's rapid growth prompted the evacuation of around 500 people at the Butterfield Ranch campground on Saturday, according to Times of San Diego. Three structures have reportedly been destroyed.
More than 200 firefighters are working to contain the blaze, and strong winds have not been the only element of Mother Nature that crews are battling. Early Sunday, low clouds kept firefighting aircraft from taking off, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The exact cause of the fire remains under investigation, but initial reports from officials are that a man working on a metal fence post may have triggered sparks which ignited nearby dry vegetation.
The gusty winds that contributed to the rapid spread of the Southern Fire will gradually diminish in Southern California through Monday. However, strong winds are forecast to last much longer farther north from near Redding to Sacramento and Modesto, California. Red flag warnings are in effect until Tuesday in this part of the state.
Over 97% of California is in a drought, with conditions ranging from moderate to exceptional, according to the latest update from the United States Drought Monitor. At the start of the water year (Oct. 1, 2020), 67% of the state was in a drought. A lackluster wet season contributed to the expanding dryness.
Forecasters say that no rain is in sight for parched California through at least the middle of the week, and building heat will add further stress to the drought-stricken state.
High temperatures are forecast to climb into the 90s from Sacramento to Fresno, California, about 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit above early May normals. Downtown Los Angeles will soar into the middle 80s by midweek, when middle 70s are more common. Triple digits are likely to return to the deserts.
There may be an opportunity for a storm to bring some wet weather to Northern California toward the end of the week, but AccuWeather meteorologists are not hopeful that this will be a big rainmaker for the region and say the storm may only cause additional problems by kicking up more wind.
Experts urge residents and visitors across the region to use extreme caution with any sources that could lead to fire ignition as the fire danger remains elevated. Parking cars over dry brush, for instance, or using outdoor power equipment and outdoor grills could spark fires.