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Schwarzenegger urges residents in path of flames to flee as fire roars in three directions

August 30, 2009 | 11:21 am

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today urged residents in fire evacuation zones to flee as firefighters predicted another difficult day battling a wildfire that has burned 35,000 acres and threatened more than 12,000 homes from Acton to Altadena.

Schwarzenegger noted at a morning press conference that three residents in Big Tujunga Canyon suffered serious burns trying in vain to save their homes Saturday.

"There will be people who don't listen," the governor said at the fire command post in Lake View Terrace. ". . . Move as soon as [firefighters] say to move."

Although thousands of homes are covered in the evacuation orders, many residents have stayed behind, with some vowing to fight to protect their homes from the Station fire.


The fire line now extends about 19 miles east to west. The governor and other elected officials praised firefighters for successfully protecting subdivisions in the foothills.

With temperatures expected to reach the mid- to high 90s today in the fire areas, officials said they were anticipating 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 onramps 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 they were concerned that fire behavior in the area could become extreme as they were expecting the wind to shift about 10 a.m.

At its eastern flank, officials said, the fire was about two miles from Mt. Wilson, the 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 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.

L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich said today that officials are concerned that the eastern flank of the blaze could eventually each mountain areas above Monrovia and Glendora. He also said Super Scooper water-dropping tankers will arrive to Southern California from Canada by Tuesday.

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 the three residents burned in rural Big Tujunga Canyon were airlifted out. At least three to five homes were destroyed there. One fire official, after surveying the canyon, estimated that the toll may be much worse.

 More photos

 Photos: Southland wildfires

 Map: The Station Fire

 Related articles:

- Firefighters endure long night in La Crescenta battling flames
- Fires create another bad-air day in parts of Los Angeles
- La Crescenta homeowners defy evacuation order, band together to fight flames
- How are you coping?

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

Photo: A cargo train passes through Acton as a plume of smoke rises from the Station fire. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times.