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Santa Ana winds bring Thanksgiving wildfire danger to Southern California: ‘Be extremely cautious,’ warns National Weather Service

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Wildfire burns for thousands of acres in front of car

A man was traveling near Walker, California, the same day a massive wildfire broke out.

Fire weather may be coming to large swathes of Southern California this holiday weekend.

The National Weather Service is forecasting Santa Ana winds between 40 and 65 mph from near Los Angeles to the U.S.-Mexico border beginning on Thanksgiving Day, prompting warnings of power shutoffs for thousands and increasing the danger of wildfires in a state that has already experienced its worst season.

Utility provider Southern California Edison has warned more than 76,000 customers in five counties that they could be without power for Thanksgiving in an effort to prevent wildfire ignition from potential wind damage to power lines.

The NWS warned that fire weather conditions could develop through Wednesday night, with potential red flag warnings by early Thursday evening.

“We are urging the public to be extremely cautious with anything that can start a fire,” the Los Angeles NWS office said. “Those living in wildland interfaces and areas vulnerable to wildfire should have a plan and be ready to evacuate if a fire starts.”

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The Santa Anas bring seasonal risk each year. Those winds blow from the interior toward the coast, and combined with low humidity, have the potential to create dangerous fire conditions

In the past, Southern California’s fire season ran from about May or June to November, according to Cal Fire. Now, it seems as if wildfires can break out just about any time of the year. But the worst blazes are still reserved for July and August, when the state is baking, then later in the fall when the flames are pushed by hot, dry and capricious winds – Santa Anas in the south and the Diablos in the north.

Golden State wildfires have killed 31 people this year. Five of the six of the largest wildfires in California history started in August and September and, collectively, burned more than 2,500 square miles, an area about the size of Delaware.

Contributing: Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

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