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'Treacherous' fire bears down on Acton with air assault underway [Updated]

August 30, 2009 |  2:42 pm


The Station fire was bearing down on the small community of Acton as firefighters made an all-out battle to keep a wildfire that has burned 35,000 acres from destroying more homes.

U.S. Forest Service Incident Chief Mike Dietrich characterized the Station fire as “treacherous," adding that the current fire plan was “to go defensive, to let the fire come to us, because it has been going so fast.”

Fixed-wing aircraft and a DC-10 were dropping water and flame retardant on the fire this afternoon.

Officials did report some progress. In La Cañada Flintridge, some residents living west of the Arroyo Seco were told they could go back to their homes. An evacuation order in portions of Glendale also was lifted. But about 6,000 homes across the 19-mile fire line remained under an evacuation order.

In Acton, the situation was tense. Wind picked up around 1:30 p.m. and began to drive the fire down canyons, threatening the community. 

“This fire is converting from slope-driven to wind-driven,” said Battalion Chief Scott Johnson, of the Santa Maria Fire Department. “It’ll get larger because of the wind. That’s when it gets dangerous.”

Over the radio, he told strike teams up in the canyons to make sure they had safe space to shelter if the fire came upon them.  Firefighters hoped the northeastward track of the breeze might take the fire just east of the semi-rural area, into more sparsely populated terrain.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today urged residents in fire evacuation zones to flee as firefighters predicted another difficult day.  

Schwarzenegger noted at a morning press conference that three residents in Big Tujunga Canyon had 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, some vowing to fight to protect their homes.

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.

 [Updated at 4:09 p.m.: Firefighters this afternoon were also dealing with a new fire near Yucaipa that had burned at least 200 acres. Sections of Oak Glen were being evacuated.]

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 also has closed the on-ramps and off-ramps 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 2 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.

-- Jessica Garrison in Acton, Alexandra Zavis at Hansen Dam, Raja Abdulrahim and Louis Sahagun in La Crescenta, Sam Quinones in Altadena, Corina Knoll and Cara Mia DiMassa in Los Angeles

Photo: A DC-10 drops fire retardant on the Station fire. This picture was taken from Soledad Canyon Road in Acton. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

More photos Photos: Southland wildfires

Related articles: 

Firefighters endure long night in La Crescenta

Fires create another bad-air day

La Crescenta homeowners defy evacuation order, band together to fight flames


Map: The Station fire

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