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Fight at 'Killer Ridge'

Silverado Canyon:

Deep in Silverado Canyon, where small wooden homes line up side-by-side like matchboxes, and tree canopies turn the narrow roads into leafy tunnels, five strike teams braced for the worst at midday as fires burned on distant peaks.

Three of the teams were positioned at County Fire Station 14, at the foot of a steep ridge the locals have dubbed "Killer Ridge" because of its history. Six people working inside the fire station were killed in a mudslide in 1969, and a woman sitting at a desk inside her home was killed a couple of years ago when a falling boulder crashed through a back wall.

Modesto battallion chief Sean Slamon, with the three teams, said two additional strike teams were stationed about two miles further up Silverado Canyon, where the road ends and the fire is just "one peak away."
Slamon said there were further concerns that the fire might also crest the ridges right above the community.

"The winds are much better but the fire's still moving pretty good," he said. "It's jumped a couple of lines -- this morning, but last night it made some runs last night.

If there was any imminent danger, George Nagelin was the picture of calm.

Outside his home, while sheriff's deputies sped by in cruisers and went door-to-door in a last-minute sweep, the 80-year-old was hosing down his car in his dirt driveway, with no plans to leave.

-- Christine Hanley


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