Winds Prompt Renewed SoCal Fire Watch

Dry, gusty winds expected to blow through Southern California prompted weather officials to warn that parts of the region would be under increased risk of fire starting New Year's Eve.

The "fire weather watch" was scheduled to last from Monday morning until Tuesday afternoon, as an inland high pressure system moves into the region, bringing weather conditions conducive to wildfires, National Weather Service officials said.

Wind gusts up to 60 mph were forecast for the Santa Monica Mountains, Santa Clarita and other wind-prone areas early New Year's Day, officials said.

Inland valleys such as the San Fernando and Santa Clara River valleys could expect winds topping 50 mph.

The winds were expected to be strongest in the mountains near Malibu and north and northeast of Los Angeles.

No fire weather watch was scheduled for San Diego, Orange and
Riverside counties, but weather service officials said they could have winds of 35 mph, with gusts up to 70 mph on New Year's Day.

Hot, dry winds helped spread a spate of forest fires in October that scorched some 800 square miles and destroyed 2,196 homes in seven Southern California counties.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-12-30-07 1405EST

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