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In Acton, tense waiting game with fire and winds

August 30, 2009 |  2:47 pm


Residents in Acton are on edge because their small town is in the path of the Station fire's northern flank.

A pickup in the winds was heightening concerns.

On Olson Road, above Soledad Canyon, Steve Wright and his family discussed who would stay and defend their home, and who would go. Wright, 50, was going to stay.

“If anything happens, I’m jumping in the pool,” he said.

Tim McKelvey, 51, sat on a folding chair outside his home on Soledad Canyon Road watching the wall of flames burning below his home near Acton.

“If you’ve grown up in Southern California, you’ve seen this since you were a child,” he said to his friend, Amy Bowman.

Bowman, 27, who was visiting from Boston, did not look convinced. “It’s so big now,” she said as a supertanker dropped another load of fire retardant. “It just is still really bad."

The two were awakened at 3 a.m. by sheriff’s deputies informing them an evacuation order had been issued.

They declined and said they would leave later if necessary, but had faith firefighters would stop the flames before they reached McKelvey’s home.

In the meantime, they watched the fire’s progress. Directly below them, firefighters were staging their next assault on the flames.

About 11:30 a.m., flames came racing over the ridgeline on the mountains above Acton.

Fire crews from the Northern California town of Porterville stood watching it, waiting for the flames to die down enough to start building a fire line.

“Right now it’s too dangerous,” said fire crew member Juan Rodriguez.

A few feet away, L.A. County Fire Battalion Chief Jim Crawford sat staring at a map that marked off homes in the canyon.

“The plan is to slow it with some air support,” he said as an air tanker dived to drop water.

Crawford said the plan was to stop the flames before they reached Highway 14 and, if possible, to protect the homes scattered throughout the canyon.

-- Jessica Garrison in Acton

Photo: "Stretch" Lewis hoses down the roof of his uncle's home on Cedarcroft Road in Acton as  the fire approaches. It's been the family home since the '70s and Stretch says "I'll be damned if I'm gonna give this home to fire." The family members say they are staying despite the mandatory evacuations. Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times 

Photos: Southland wildfires

Map: The Station Fire

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