Grass fires kept local firefighters busy Monday, and this week's hot, breezy forecast promises no relief in the days ahead.
Morning and afternoon fires in Modesto, Ceres, Turlock and Waterford caused no serious damage, officials said, but the flare-ups are a reminder that fire season is here.
Today marks the start of fire season in areas covering most of Calaveras County and parts of Tuolumne, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.
Modesto and the Northern San Joaquin Valley may face the season's first significant heat wave, which could bring record temperatures, said Karl Swanberg, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.
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Breezy conditions likely will increase today and Wednesday, with northwest winds blowing at 10 to 20 mph, he said. Thursday and Friday likely will be the hottest days, with triple-digit temperatures possible, but the heat wave could continue into Saturday. Some cooling is expected Sunday and Monday, Swanberg said. Wednesday and Thursday likely will see overnight lows around 60.
The Turlock Rural Fire Department had calls for 10 vegetation fires from 12:45 to 6:07 p.m., said Assistant Fire Chief Steve Williams.
The Modesto Fire Department had "small grass fires here and there," Battalion Chief Mark Johansen said. Firefighters returned at 3 p.m. to a hay fire that started Sunday near Milnes and Claus roads.
A backyard grass fire on El Farrari Court in Ceres threatened a house after a fence nearby caught fire, said Ceres Fire Capt. Joshua Bennett.
Turlock city firefighters saw a rash of grass fires around Highway 99 on Monday afternoon, said Capt. Manuel Drumonde from the Turlock Fire Department. Fires started in the me-dian and on both sides of the freeway halfway between West Main Street and Lander Avenue. Several lanes were closed because of smoke.
Capt. Dave Wason of the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District said the Waterford-based agency had a quarter-acre grass fire that threatened three houses near Skyline Boulevard in Waterford. The fire, which started about 2:15 p.m., was wind-driven with an unknown cause.
Wason said he thinks conditions might get worse.
"We do the weather for the county at this station," he said. "Humidity's down to 20 percent. Winds are gusting from 15 to 20 miles per hour in Waterford. We're seeing July and August conditions in May. I see it being a crazy summer."
Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2235.