Firefighters battled a wind-whipped wildfire in the inland mountains of Southern California on Friday as unseasonably hot weather heightened fire danger in a region where little rain has fallen this winter.
The Bonita Fire erupted shortly after 1 a.m. and quickly grew to 715 acres. Fire crews stopped its progress, but it remained only 20% contained.
The fire triggered evacuations in Mountain Center, a tiny community in the San Jacinto Mountains about 90 miles east of Los Angeles.
The blaze burned in heavy vegetation, including pine trees, Cal Fire/Riverside County said in a statement.
Temperatures in the region have reached summer-like highs in the 80s and low 90s, and Santa Ana winds bringing in extremely dry air are contributing to the threat of disastrous wildlifres..
While wind storms are common this time of year, “it is unusual how dry we are,” National Weather Service meteorologist Alex Tardy said in a video briefng from San Diego.
More than 95% of California is experiencing drought ranging from moderate to extreme, the U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday. The remainder — stretching east and south of Los Angeles to the U.S.-Mexico border — is considered abnormally dry.