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High winds headed to the Bay Area, but fire worries are low, NWS says

High winds that may surge through much of the Bay Area on Friday, while bothersome, shouldn’t be cause for concern as the region nears the end of fire season, according to the National Weather Service.

High-elevation areas such as Alum Rock and Mount Diablo were expected to receive winds as swift as 28 miles per hour Friday afternoon and evening. Gusts as late as 10 p.m. could reach the mid-20s in speed. While the air is relatively dry, recent rain should protect the Bay Area from any critical fire threats in populated areas.

“One of the things you look at when you look at fire weather concerns, you look at the wind, you look at temperatures but you also have to look at the fuels,” said NWS meteorologist Brooke Bingaman. “The grasses, the brush, the trees, how dry are they?

“If this had happened in the middle of the summer, we probably would be coordinating with fire agencies … but because we have had rain in the past couple of months, those fuels have soaked up enough moisture that they haven’t dried up to critical levels yet.”

Once the winds calm, the outlook for the weekend and the beginning of next week will be relatively similar to recent days, Bingaman said: Clear and chilly for much of the region, with highs in the 60s.

Bingaman said the fact that the high-wind event shouldn’t last longer than a day means risk for those fuels drying out is low. NWS staff will evaluate brush and trees following the wind event to see if they’ve dried enough to have fire concerns in the near future.

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“As of [Friday], if a fire were to start it likely wouldn’t spread rapidly because we still have green grass and there’s enough moisture,” she said.

Bingaman added that doesn’t mean a fire starting in the Mount Diablo peaks or elsewhere is impossible, but the likelihood of fire spreading enough to be dangerous is dramatically low due to the conditions.

Fire officials in Contra Costa County, where Mount Diablo is located, agree with the NWS assessment. They declared fire season to be over earlier in the week, marking a relatively calm period for California standards.

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