Fire is a chemical process. Three things are needed for this process: oxygen or air, heat, and fuel.
Our local mountains have plenty of fuel in dry brush. As the wind picks up across the terrain, it drives the fire to grow.
The most dangerous situation is wind sheering off the mountain, pushing the fire into neighboring towns. We saw that with the Sawtooth Fire.
As the flames spread across Pioneertown, the concern was if northwest wind would blow the fire down into Morongo Valley.
We’ve also seen wind jump flames across a gully, cutting off the escape route for fire crews. Tragically, we saw this with the Esperanza Fire.
There are times the wind can help during a firefight.
In Big Bear, we saw a fire climbing up the mountain. The winds changed direction and blew the fire back on itself.
When there are Santa Ana winds, firefighters say they have a pretty good idea of where the fire will go, what it will do, and where they can put some control lines.