Two Los Angeles County firefighters killed in vehicle accident near Station fire [Updated]
Two Los Angeles County firefighters battling the Station fire were killed this afternoon in a vehicle crash.
Officials announced the death at an emotional news conference, saying that the families of the fallen firefighters had been notified and that department chaplains were with them.
The accident occurred near Mt. Gleason earlier this afternoon. Details of the crash were not immediately available, but TV footage showed a truck rolled over on a mountainside.
[Updated at 8:29 p.m.: County Deputy Fire Chief Mike Bryant fought back tears when he announced the deaths. He said the accident occurred during a period of intense firefighting near the northern edge of the fire near Acton. He did not release the names of the firefighters.
During the news conference, officials said they were growing optimistic that the fire would not sweep through Acton. "We're optimistic," said U.S. Forest incident Commander Mike Dietrich. "But based on this fire's behavior, we have no guarantees for that community."]
Officials also announced that at least 18 structures have been destroyed by the Station fire, but they added that number will probably grow.
The fire burning in Angeles National Forest is approaching the historic solar observatory and television transmission towers atop Mt. Wilson, according to Los Angeles County fire officials. The communications towers house transmitters for every major television station in Los Angeles.
Crews were clearing brush around the structures Sunday evening, but fire officials were not sure if they could leave personnel on the mountain to fight the flames because of the danger and limited escape routes. [Updated at 8:29 p.m.: Crews are still at Mt. Wilson. TV footage shows fire on two sides of the peak.]
[Updated at 9:24 p.m.: News of the firefighters' death brought immediate tributes from other agencies involved in fighting the Station fire as well as some residents whose homes are in the path of the flames.']
“This accident is tragic,” Bryant said. “This is a very difficult time for L.A. County Fire Department and the men and women that serve day in, day out.”
He added: "We ask for your understanding, for your patience as we move through this difficult time, and please, prayers for the families of our two brothers that we lost."
-- Hector Becerra at Hansen Dam and Anna Gorman
Top photo: Smoke from the Station fire billows as the moon glows over Soledad Canyon Road in Acton. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times.
Second photo: A Los Angeles County fire fighter sprays walks by a wall of fire as he fights the Station Fire August 30, 2009 in Acton, California. Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
Photos: Southland wildfires
Map: The Station fire