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.
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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..
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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.
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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.