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Firefighters battling La Cañada Flintridge fire on two fronts

August 28, 2009 |  6:30 pm

Scorching temperatures continued to stoke wildfires across Southern California today, creating anxious moments in the mountains north and east of Los Angeles, where thousands of residents fled flames that skipped through canyons, edging toward one neighborhood after another.

More than 2,700 firefighters and a small air force of water-dumping planes and helicopters managed to stop the blazes before they swept into hillside housing tracts.

But smoky air from the fires continued to create unhealthful conditions in parts of the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys, disrupting schools, horseback riding programs and day camps near the fire areas. 

And the situation remained precarious late today in several areas, notably the La Cañada Flintridge foothills, where 1,200 acres had burned and the fire was just 10% contained.

“It’s going to be extremely dynamic tonight and tomorrow,” said David Conklin, Angeles National Forest fire management officer. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”

Dubbed the Station fire, it was the most dangerous of four blazes still burning today from the San Bernardino National Forest to the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

Relatively calm winds greatly aided firefighters, but triple-digit temperatures were expected to last through Sunday, making fire control efforts extremely difficult in steep, open canyon areas. The Station fire jumped fire lines and Angeles Crest Highway this morning.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered for nearly 900 homes, and more than 600 were threatened this afternoon, officials said.

Down-canyon winds first pushed the fire toward La Cañada Flintridge. But day-time winds shifted up the canyons, spreading the fire out toward the east and west.

By this evening the flames were moving southeast along the Arroyo Seco above Altadena, as well as northwest toward Tujunga.

“We want to keep it from getting established on the slopes above Altadena and below Mt. Wilson. There are a lot of National Forest campgrounds in there,” said Stanton Florea, fire information officer for the U.S. Forest Service.

--Rich Connell