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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.

FiremanDuring 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

More photos
Photos:
Southland wildfires

Related articles: 

Red-flag warning extended amid forecast of more dry heat and winds

Fire forces Acton family to take stock of what is important

Map300


Map:
The Station fire

How are you coping?

 
Comments () | Archives (44)

So very sad. My brother-in-law is an L.A. firefighter, and my young nephew (20 years old) is in training.

My sincere condolences to the families, and to the L.A. County Fire Department.

God bless.

MyLastBite,

Ditto.

Need to investigate why fire was allowed to grow over a a period of two days while it was still manageable but not threatening homes. Most coverage and attention seemed to have focused on the fire by the beach. Now it has become unaffordably costly with loss of lives involved.

What about those 3 teenagers found near the origin of the fire. It seemed questionable as to what they were doing there. THEY should be "persons of interest" and possibly charged with murder.

My heart and prayer go out to those who gave thier lives and those lives are on the line fighting fires. I spent 23yr working with along side them as a medic for a private ambulance company,
Goodhew and AMR.
God Be with you my friends.

It breaks my heart that firefighter lives were lost. They are our valiant protectors. I raised my children in the affected area and know that many of their friends' families are still up there. They are all in my thoughts.

On a different note--it is easy to "second guess" decisions when one is not on the frontline. Not appreciated.

Indeed. CalFire and forest Service did little for 2-3 days, while this grew from a small local fire to one far too large to control, burning all the way north to the desert. Because there was no wind, they did not think it was a threat -- only seemed concerned about homes affected nearby in La Canada. Nothing about the conditions faced -- the extreme heat, the terrain, the availability of fuels on hillsides that haven't burned in decades -- was not known well beforehand. Too few resources, poor planning.

And the news coverage, as usual, has done nothing to question or critique how these fires have been handled. Virtually no coverage on TV until tonight, and up till Friday, more news stories on Palos Verdes than Station Fire, when anyone in the area knew this was the real story.

Winds or not, these fires can only be managed with clearing out dead trees and underbrush....I can recall over the years environmental groups always screaming whenever that proposal is brought up......so if you're looking for people to blame, steer clear of the brave men and women who are fighting these fires and focus on those who never seem to see the need to do this most important forest maintinence..... the Station fire for example is burning dead trees some of which are reported to have been there for 60 years.

When the Rancho PV fire broke out, the station fire lost resources while it was small.

Looks like silicones knows nothing about fighting wildland fire. Slope, fuel, and topography along with remote access and not putting crews directly in front of the fires path are just a few things to consider while fighting these kinds of blazes. Go take a fire suppression class and get an education before posting. Or better yet, go fight a fire without training and knowledge and see how long you last out there.

My husband is a firefighter overseas and waiting for his visa to join me here in the U.S. Our family's thoughts and prayers go out to our brothers' families. They are well deserving of badges of honor for supreme sacrifice for the sake of saving and serving others. May they rest in peace.

It's easy to sit on a computer and say what you think should have been done. Bottom line is that you're commenting on something you probably know nothing about and 2 families and a firefighting community are mourning the loss of 2 people that were out there trying to make a difference.

Thoughts and prayers to the families and the resources battling the fire...

My condolences to the families and friends of those lost. I too have lost friends from fighting the beast.

Silicones and MotherPhaquers,

Your comments are inappropriate and offensive following an article about two firefighters who died in the line of duty. You add much pain to firefighters who are deeply saddened by this tragic loss.

Silicones,

Fire suppression effort is not measured in terms of media coverage. The Station Fire began after fire agencies were stretched thin by the Morris and Palos Verdes fires in LA County and many other fires throughout the State.

If you feel anger about the Station fire, focus it on those responsible for causing the fire, not the firefighters and fire managers who have been working diligently in adverse conditions. The fire managers you malign feel a great deal more pain over the loss of these firefighters than you can imagine.

Cal Fire does not fight fires in National Forests unless they get called to help by USFS. It is not that they do not do anything, they are not allowed to do anything until the feds call them for help. The USFS first responsibility is to defend structures so they may have had to let the forest go while saving houses. Much of these fire problems are caused by developers building right up to the edge of the forest, and city and county politicians letting them do so. The developers want to use every bit of land they have and do not want donate defensible space between their property and the forest.

This is tragic. My heart goes out to all the men and women who are struggling so hard to contain these fires, but especially to the families of the two men who made the ultimate sacrifice. I can only hope that if there is anyone out there who might be responsible for deliberately setting some of these blazes, whether from cooking accidents at illegal encampments, or because they're just plain arsonists they are caught and charged with murder.

Wow!!! To the ungrateful and heartless creeps who had to get their 15 mins of fame could you use some of that energy and complain about the fire dept cuts due to budget cuts....


And to families and friends of the heros we lost today, you are in our hearts, thoughts and prayers...

God Bless these families of the firefighters who have lost their lives. My husband is out there working to protect lives and property. My heart and prayers go out to all.

The prayers of this former La Cañada Flintridge resident are with all those affected by this inferno, and especially with the gallant men and women who put their own lives at risk to protect and save others. May God grant eternal rest to the firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice, and may He console their families and loved ones. "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends."

In the event that the animal shelters become filled to capacity, I could accommodate 2 large dogs or 3 or 4 small ones for anyone who is forced to evacuate the Acton area. I live in Lancaster.

I can be reached at blameitonkarma@roadrunner.com.

My heart breaks for the families of the lost firefighters. Having lost loved ones recently I can absolutely empathize with their feelings of loss and I hope they know that many, many strangers are with them in spirit. I don't believe in god (big or little 'g') but I do believe in the kindness of strangers. I hope these fires were not the result of human hands.

I am truly saddened by the loss of firefighters in this fire.

I'm also troubled by the discord expressed here over how the fire fighting has been managed. While this fire is massive, a much smaller fire that started at 2 pm this afternoon destroyed 20 homes and businesses in the Auburn area even though CalFire was immediately asking for regional help.

Everyone does their best at the time.

In the name of brotherhood you will always be remembered, you will always be loved, you will always be honored. May you rest in peace knowing that your loved ones will always be protected and taken car of by your fellow brothers and sisters on the line. As a firefighter I can say I know you two brave souls passed doing what you loved.

M.S. Hughes
Firefighter CA

Rather than criticizing Cal Fire and the US Forest Service fire crews for not doing enough soon enough, one might wish to turn their attention to the politicians who, year after year, continue to reduce the budgets of both Cal Fire and the Forest Service to the point that both agencies are being tasked to do an extremely hazardous job with far fewer resources than they had years ago. This despite the fact that there are more and more houses and people at risk as developers continue to build in the so-called urban-interface areas of our state.

If you want to complain to someone, complain to your elected officials at both the state and federal level. In the specific case of the US Forest Service, if the trend continues in the years ahead there simply won’t be any Forest Service fire crews left as, in an effort to reduce costs in an ever shrinking budget; highly trained Forest Service fire fighters are being replaced by, lesser trained, civilian contract fire crews.

 
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