A Red Flag Warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures can create extreme fire behavior.
The National Weather Service provides daily fire weather forecasts in close coordination with local fire agencies. The Red Flag Warning Program enables firefighting agencies to manage critical resources and prepare appropriate suppression responses for protecting life and property. Red Flag Warnings are typically issued within 24 hours of an impending critical fire weather event.
Red Flag Warning Text Alerts
The Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management has partnered with local fire officials to create a text messaging system for local residents when a Red Flag Warning is issued in Santa Barbara County. Sign up for ReadySBC Alerts (through ReadySBC.org and ReadySBC.org/es) to receive notifications on multiple hazards impacting our area, including Red Flag Warnings. Additionally, Red Flag Warning information is posted on ReadySBC.org via an alert banner on the homepage in English and Spanish, plus shared via social media bilingually.
Current Weather Conditions
For today’s Fire Weather Planning Forecast for Southwestern California from the National Weather Service.
Fire Weather Zones
The National Weather Service has created five Fire Weather Zones within Santa Barbara County. They are as follows:
Santa Barbara County Central Coast – CAZ235
Defined on the north by the county line; on the west by the coast; on the south by a line from Point Conception to the 1,000 foot contour to the Gaviota Pass; on the east by a north-south line from the county line through the town of Garey to Highway 101.
Santa Ynez Valley – CAZ236
Defined on the north by the county line; on the west by a north-south line from the county line through Garey to Highway 101; on the south and east by the 1,500 foot contour of the Sierra Madre Mountains.
Cuyama Valley – CAZ238
Defined on the north and east by the county line; on the west and south by the 3,000 foot contour of the Sierra Madre Mountains.
Santa Barbara County South Coast – CAZ239
Defined on the west by a line from Point Conception north to the 1,000 foot contour; on the east by the 1,000 foot contour to Gaviota Pass by the 1,500 foot contour from the Gaviota Pass to the county line; on the east by the county line; on the south by the coast. This zone contains the Gaviota Pass. In addition, “No Parking” Red Flag Warning flip down signs located in the Mission Canyon area of Station 15’s District will be deployed during a Red Flag Warning. Parking enforcement will begin 12 hours after the flip down signs are deployed.
Santa Barbara County Mountains – CAZ252
Defined on the north and east by the county line; on the south and west by the 1,500 foot contour of the Sierra Madre Mountains; on the northeast by the 3,000 foot contour of the Sierra Madre Mountains.
High Risk Day
Notice issued by the Predictive Services Units in Riverside and Redding indicating that there is a 20% chance of either a new large fire occurring or a significant growth of an existing fire.
Fire Weather Watch
Notice issued to alert fire agencies to the high potential for development of a Red Flag event in the 18-96 hour time frame. The Watch may be issued for all or selected portions of a fire weather zone or zones.
Red Flag Warning
Notice issued to inform agencies of the impending or occurring Red Flag conditions. A Red Flag Warning is issued when there is high confidence that Red Flag criteria will be met within the next 48 hours or less or criteria are already being met. Longer lead times are allowed when confidence is very high or the fire danger situation is critical. The Warning may be issued for all or selected portions of a fire weather zone or zones.
Red Flag Warning Criteria
- Relative humidity is 15% or less with either sustained winds of 25 mph or greater or frequent gusts of 35 mph or greater for a duration of 6 hours or more.
- Relative humidity is 10% or less with either sustained winds of 15 mph or greater or frequent gusts of 25 mph or greater for a duration of 6 hours or more.
- Widespread and/or significant dry lightning where there is little or no rainfall associated with the lightning activity
- The discretion of the Fire Chief.
As a result of the issuance of the Red Flag Warning, citizens should take appropriate precautions. These precautions include, but are not limited to the following:
- Report any sign of smoke immediately to your local fire department by calling 911 (if your call 911 from your cell phone, you must know your location).
- Use extreme caution when operating spark of flame producing machinery in hazardous grass or brush areas.
- Have an evacuation plan in place and identify two exit routes from your neighborhood. If you are asked to evacuate by fire or law enforcement officials, do so immediately.
- Report any suspicious persons or vehicles to law enforcement.
Fire Weather Watch Criteria
A separate but less imminent forecast may include a Fire Weather Watch:
- Alerts fire and land management agencies of weather and critically dry fuels that could lead to dngerous wildfires and extreme fire behavior.
- Enables fire fighting agencies to manage critical resources and prepare appropriate suppression responses for protecting life and property.
- Watches are typically issued generally 12 to 72 hours in advance of potential critical fire weather conditions.