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Firefighters try to battle back Station fire from Acton, Mt. Wilson

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The Station fire, which has destroyed 21 homes and killed two firefighters, was burning within a quarter of a mile of Mt. Wilson as firefighters prepared for another long, hot day.

Inspector Edward Osorio of the Los Angeles County Fire Department estimated property damage from the fire at $7,671,000 and rising.

The fire is expected to move in a northeasterly direction, and officials are putting significant resources on the northern edge of the fire near Acton.

Officials said the goal for today was to keep the fire west of Highway 39 and Angeles Crest Highway; south of Highway 14, Pearblossom Highway and Highway 138; east of Interstate 5 and north of the foothill communities along the Angeles National Forest border.

Mt. Wilson was believed doomed last night, but Osorio said aggressive brush clearance by crews and drops of fire retardant from the air seem to have helped.

"At this point, I don't think it suffered any serious damage. We'll probably get some flare-ups or threatening flame activity, but we don't think it's going to be a major problem," he said. 

The Station fire doubled in size to 85,000 acres overnight and destroyed more structures.

"That fire burned just like it was daytime. Usually you get recovery because humidity goes up at night, which slows the fire down and you're able to construct more line around the fire," said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Nathan Judy. "But last night that wasn't the case."

The exact number of homes consumed by the Station fire remains unclear, but officials said several homes south of Acton were lost last night and this morning. Earlier, 18 homes in the Tujunga Canyon area were lost, but officials expect that number to rise.

More neighborhoods were evacuated overnight as the fire pushed in three directions.

"We are making progress, but it is very slow and very dangerous," incident commander Mike Dietrich of the U.S. Forest Service said at a news conference this morning. "We have to wait for the fire to come to us." 

At the bottom of Mt. Wilson Road early this morning, firefighters bedded down in the ash-flecked open air, the forest pitch black except for the flames lighting ridgelines in the near distance. The head of the fire appeared to be across a broad and deep canyon from the Mt. Wilson compound. 

Smaller flare-ups could be seen closer to the thicket of communications towers alongside the Mt. Wilson observatory, where five engine crews were posted overnight. 

The blaze already had raced up to the winding stretch of Angeles Crest Highway that leads to Mt. Wilson Road. Road signs had melted, guardrails were burned free of their wood moorings, and the switchbacks were choked with fire-loosened boulders and scorched tree limbs.

Two firefighters were killed when they drove off the side of a treacherous road in the Mt. Gleason area, south of Acton, around 2:30 p.m. Sunday, said Los Angeles County Deputy Fire Chief Mike Bryant. They were later identified as Arnaldo Quinones, 35, of Palmdale and Tedmund Hall, 47, of San Bernardino County.

"This accident is tragic," Bryant said, choking up as he spoke Sunday evening. "This is a very difficult time for L.A. County Fire Department and the men and women that serve day in, day out."

The fallen firefighters were overseeing workers clearing brush at a Department of Corrections inmate campsite, Osorio said.

"It's still under investigation, but apparently the campsite got overrun by fire," he added.

More than 12,500 homes were threatened, and 6,600 were under mandatory evacuation orders Sunday night. Twenty-one residences have been destroyed, fire officials said, mostly in the Big Tujunga Canyon area.

The fire was 5% contained, officials said, and at least temporarily had eased off in foothill communities from La Cañada Flintridge to Altadena.

Much of Sunday turned into a blistering-hot waiting game for firefighters, who were trying to determine where the fire would move next. Rather than battling the flames in the sheer granite canyons of the interior, with heavy vegetation more than 40 years old in many areas, they cut fire lines near threatened neighborhoods.

"In this rugged, steep terrain, with this brush as thick as it is, we are having difficulties establishing containment lines where we can make a stand," said Capt. Mark Savage, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. "This fire is still very much out of control."

Fire was burning all around Angeles Crest Highway near Mt. Wilson on Sunday evening. Earlier, hand crews cleared brush to protect the historic observatory and critical transmission towers for local television and radio stations.

The century-old observatory holds what was for decades the largest telescope in the world; it was instrumental in many of astronomy's biggest discoveries, including research that led to the "big bang" theory.

"It's a serious situation. Is the observatory going to make it? We're doing everything in our power. But I wouldn't be surprised if it is impacted by fire today or tomorrow," Bob Shindelar, operations branch director of California Incident Management Team 5, said Sunday afternoon.

More than 2,800 fire personnel from around the state have converged to battle the Station fire, along with 12 helicopters and eight air tankers.

They had hoped that the day would bring cooler, more humid air. But the red-flag fire alert was extended through today as the fire grew in all directions and sent a column of smoke high into the air -- mushrooming into a towering pyrocumulus cloud that could be seen across the Southland.

Meteorologists predicted that hot, dry conditions would continue without relent until at least Tuesday.

-- Corina Knoll at Hansen Dam

Photo: A charred Los Angeles County fire truck sits at the bottom of a hill on Mt. Gleason in the Angeles National Forest. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)


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Twitter: Follow @latimescitydesk | @latimesfires

 
Comments () | Archives (12)

After another predictable firestorm will US Senator Diane Finestein back up her statement she made on the Senate Floor : that no new residential housing devolpment be permitted that interfaces with historical firestorm areas?

Though permits are local matters, predictably billions will be lost if urban sprawl continues into wilderness-fire prone areas of Califorina. The days of quick buck 1950's type of endless sub-divisions into the foothills must stop.

And how many developers have applied for and received permission to continue to build deeper into this forest land?

Here is a link to my company’s website that we created for people to better track the progress and extents of wildfires.

http://wv.enplan.com/

We built this site because of the severe fires that burned all last summer up here near Redding. We are drawing data from a number of government sources and integrating it into one portal. It is very innovative. Firefighter people and folks threatened up here loved it last summer and now rely on it. The main difference between it and maps normally displayed online for the public is that it is dynamic and interactive.

Click the link and zoom to Southern California and on to the fire near you. Zoom and pan around as you wish. Change to map or terrain views (tab at upper right) to better see streets or terrain. Click on fire detect points (flames) to see the date fire was detected at any given location. You can see progress by comparing the dates and times. A fire perimeter will probably be determined by the USFS soon and will automatically appear on our site so you can see it. The satellites detect new fire locations when they pass over, which may be immediately through to about 24 hours.
http://wv.enplan.com/

There was some confusion last night (Sunday night and early Monday morning) in the La Crescenta area. Evac phone calls were made and then rescinded as the area of the calls was too large. I have a house on Alabama and it got two calls. Any idea what was going on?
La Crescenta has been there forever as has Altadena and Mount Wilson. The house on Alabama is 50 years old. This fire was not the result of developers pushing into the forrest.

Wildfires usually happen in areas that should not be inhabited by man. End of story.

Please make sure that the developers and the local city councils who authorized the extened growth into forest land are invited to the funerals of the two firefighters who died protecting their unconscionable decisions.

God bless you firefighters! Thank, thank you, thank you for keeping us safe. You are in my prayers.

Its not only that Mount Wilson once had the world's largest telescope, it is the entire compound of historic telescopes (each one a completely original invention) that makes it so irreplaceable. Mount Wilson is George Ellery Hale's masterpiece, it advanced the field of Astronomy further than any other Observatory in history (many believe).

Los Angeles is lucky to have this historic, ground-breaking Observatory intact with its priceless, originally-designed instruments and their housing (thanks mostly to the many dedicated volunteers who have maintained them).

The 5 historic telescopes on Mount Wilson are:

The "youngest" vintage telescope on the mountain is the 100" Hooker stellar telescope which saw first light in 1917.

The 60-foot solar telescope became operational in 1908. The 150-foot solar telescope, became operational in 1912.

The 60" telescope saw first light in 1908. (Designed by George Ritchey, it is considered to be the Grandfather of all modern telescope design. Hubble used this telescope to evolve his famous theory: the Big Bang Theory.)

The first telescope to become operational on Mount Wilson was the Snow solar telescope in 1905.

Agree with Virginia ^^

And the Super Scoopers sit idle

WHy !

Thank you randall Hauser

Very helpful

link:

http://wv.enplan.com/

Thank you for your continuing coverage of the fires.

This isn't just a human story of loss, though. 105,000 acres have burned -- that means a lot of roasted ANIMALS.

I have yet to see any writing on the actual wildlife that live in these burning areas -- what is the impact to them? -- I am assuming thousands and thousands of animals are dying? I saw AP photos of a poor deer running from flames.
http://news.yahoo.com/nphotos/Most-Recommended-Photos/ss/1750;_ylt=AjLPHcxexN3ky4PAisTqJ9QFO7gF

I don't know lots about wildlife, but I go hiking; I know they're out there. How about balancing the human stories with some word on the plant and animal damage - not just the handful of houses and unfortunate people that have perished.

Most LA dwellers don't even know that the mountains are full of life, from bears and owls to deer and unique insects. These creatures' home is burning, and they can't just hop in their car and evacuate.

What is the toll everytime we have one of these fires, usually caused by one of us?

Bryan M.
Candidate, Master of Landscape Architecture
College of Environmental Design
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Editors, please put a stop to the antiquated use of the terms "BRUSH" and "brushfires." These oversimplifications should be eliminated.

When the fire department and media refer to our native ecosystems as simply "brush" it devalues a rich habitat and perpetuates the public misconception that our hillsides are just dry brown weeds which serve no purpose.

Any one who has hiked in our mountains knows that our COASTAL SAGE SCRUB and CHAPARRAL ecosystems are home to diverse shrubs, trees and wildflowers of every kind, plant species with fascinating differences and adaptations which create habitat that supports a whole chain of wildlife.

Visitors from the East Coast and Midwest remark with amazement that we have such dramatic mountains right next to our sprawling metropolis, yet most Angelenos hardly know them unless they burn.

"Wildfire?" yes. "Brushfire?" No. It shows dangerous ignorance of the uniqueness and value of our native flora. These are internationally recognized, endangered ecosystems; some of the most biodiverse on the planet, and home to a number of endangered species.

If the public doesn't know how special our wild areas are, then no wonder we have wildfires every year -- often caused by someone who "simply" ... wasn't careful.

Also, any word yet on possible causes of all these fires?


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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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