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Station fire 56% contained; another firefighter injured [Updated]

September 7, 2009 | 10:50 am

Lanow.sierra Containment of the 13-day-old Station fire burning in Angeles National Forest reached 56% this morning as thousands of firefighters worked to encircle the historic blaze as it continued to crawl eastward through steep canyons.

[Updated at 11:57 a.m.: Controlled burns later today in the mountains north of Monrovia and Arcadia could send up towering plumes of smoke and residents should not be alarmed, officials said. When and if the backfires will be conducted depends on wind and weather conditions, said Nathan Judy, a U.S. Forest Service public information officer.

The intentional fires would help protect the Mt. Wilson Observatory and a series of critical communications towers, as well as several campgrounds in the Cogswell Dam area, Judy said.

Meanwhile, on the eastern flank of the fire, one of the most active stretches has been near the Mt. Waterman ski area. Hand crews were working today cut protective fire breaks. “We’re not out of the woods just yet,” Judy said. “The weather could change and we could be running again.” ]

The Station fire, which officials say was caused by arson, has destroyed 78 homes. The estimate of acreage consumed remained at 157,220 acres this morning, the largest forest fire on record in Los Angeles County. The fire was 51% contained Sunday.

Crews are working sporadic hot spots above Little Tujunga near the western flank of the fire.
But for the most part the charred horn of the fire area stretching from La Cañada Flintridge around the San Gabriel Mountains to the Littlerock area in the high desert was under control. “The whole western portion of the fire is looking real good,” U.S. Forest Service information officer Nathan Judy told The Times this morning.

Along the still-uncontrolled eastern edge of the fire, commanders planned to set backfires about a mile east of Mt. Wilson and cut new fire lines to make a stand in the next few days above the Duarte area.

“We’re hoping to hold it within the wilderness area, which isn’t a whole lot more, mileage-wise,” Judy said.

A firefighter who fell while cutting fire breaks overnight had to be airlifted out of the mountains. The extent of the firefighter's injuries wasn't immediately available.

“Our crews working that wilderness area are in real steep, rugged terrain,” Judy said. "One misstep and you're going down the hillside.”

Two firefighters have been killed and authorities are treating the probe into the fire's origins as a homicide investigation. Ten firefighters have been injured.

-- Jason Felch at Hansen Dam and Rich Connell in Los Angeles

Photo: La Canada residents Sandra and Richard Loe check information about the progress of the Station Fire at a Fire Safe Council information booth located at a roadblock on the north end of Santa Anita Avenue. The Loes own a walk up cabin not far from Chantry Flats, near Mt. Wilson. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

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Photos: Wildfires | 360° view | High-res | Shots mapped Interactive map: The Station fire