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Fire forces Acton family to take stock of what is important

August 30, 2009 |  8:56 pm


The bluff overlooking Bootlegger Canyon in Acton is filled with nervous homeowners and dozens of firefighters, who were looking out onto the smoldering hills and several spots where the ridges are engulfed in flames 20 to 25 feet high.

The fire is chewing its way through the thick brush and illuminating the dark sky. One of the residents, Kathy Howald, looked out onto her house about 1/2 mile away and saw the blinking lights of fire trucks.

At 2:30 a.m. a police officer drove through her neighborhood calling for a voluntary evacuation.

About an hour later, an automated call instructed her that the evacuation was now mandatory. Howald said she and her husband called for someone to pick up the horses, but the horses refused to get into the trailer. 

As the flames grew, she was nervously looking out to her house and worrying about her horses. She was able to pack up her two cats, paintings, computers, photographs and her musician husband’s collection. The fire has made her and her husband take stock of what is important, she said.

“As long as we have got each other, everything is okay,” she said.

Howald praised the work of the dozens of firefighters scattered throughout the neighborhood, saying they worked tirelessly to protect the houses.

Los Angeles County Fire Chief Greg Jones, overseeing the operation in Bootlegger Canyon, said there were about 20 engines in the canyon area. He also has a team of bulldozers. One house in the area has burned.

Several firefighters were trapped momentarily as they tried to protect a house and rescue the homeowner. They hunkered down with oxygen masks until the fire passed. Jones said the fire continued to move in a southeastern direction.

-- Joel Rubin in Acton

Photo: Los Angeles County Sheriff deputies and residents help evacuate horses as the Station fire burns in the hills above Acton, Calif. on Sunday, Aug. 30, 2009. Credit: Dan Steinberg / AP

More photos
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