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Firefighters predict another difficult day as they battle blaze on multiple fronts

August 30, 2009 |  9:19 am
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Firefighters are predicting another difficult battle today as they try to prevent a wildfire that has already burned 35,000 acres from destroying more homes along a massive front that extends from Acton near the Antelope Valley to Altadena in the San Gabriel Valley.

With temperatures expected to reach the mid- to high 90s today in the fire areas, officials said they were expecting extreme fire conditions, mirroring Saturday’s, when flames leapt as high as 80 feet and spread at a rate of about 2.5 miles an hour.

More than 2,000 fire personnel now are deployed fighting the Station fire.

In the Acton area, mandatory evacuations have been ordered along the 14 Freeway from Soledad Canyon Road to Crown Valley Road and along Aliso Canyon Road from Soledad Canyon Road to Angeles Forest Highway.

The California Highway Patrol has also closed the on and offramps to the 14 Freeway at Soledad Canyon Road, Agua Dulce, Escondido Canyon Road, Red Rover Mine Road and Crown Valley Road. They said that they were concerned that fire behavior in the area could become extreme as they were expecting the wind to shift around 10 a.m.

At its eastern flank, officials said that the fire was about two miles from Mt. Wilson, site of a number of important communications towers and an observatory. Ground crews are cutting back vegetation and brush in the area to arrest the fire’s progress.

At its southwestern flank, the fire is spreading actively in the foothills above the 210 Freeway, from Altadena to Little Tujunga. Officials said they had four control objectives for the day:

-- Keep the fire west of Mt. Wilson Road

-- Keep it south of Highway 14.

-- Keep it east of Interstate 5.

-- Keep it north of both Foothill Boulevard and Altadena Drive.

Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Bill Sanchez said fire crews needed to cut about 110 miles of fire line to stop the fire’s trajectory.

He said the wind changed direction overnight, particularly in the mountainous areas of the Angeles National Forest, to a down-canyon wind, which pushed it toward some residential areas.

“Due to the volatility at the top of some of the areas, it is going to be really challenging,” Sanchez said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us. There is quite a bit of instability at the top of the fire.”

Weary firefighters were hoping for slightly cooler weather and more resources today as they battled the Station fire.

The fire marched north overnight through remote mountain ridges toward Acton. The U.S. Forest Service was sending firefighters into those areas, which have become the northern edge of the blaze. Mandatory evacuations were in effect in La Cañada Flintridge, Pasadena, La Crescenta, Altadena, Glendale and Big Tujunga Canyon.

Today is supposed to be the last day of a five-day heat wave that has brought triple-digit temperatures along the fire lines. Forecasters said temperatures will drop a few degrees today and that lower temperatures, morning clouds and more humidity are on tap for the next few days.

But even with no winds in the forecast, firefighters said the conditions remain highly dangerous.

Forest Service officials said three civilians were burned and airlifted from rural Big Tujunga Canyon, where at least three to five homes were destroyed. One fire official, after surveying the canyon, estimated that the toll may be much worse. Read more about the Station fire

-- Alexandra Zavis in La Canada Flintridge, Raja Abdulrahim in La Crescenta, Sam Quinones in Altadena and Cara Mia DiMassa

Photo credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

 More photos

 Photos: Southland wildfires

 Map: The Station Fire

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