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Containment of Station fire rises to 49% as battle targets the San Gabriel Wilderness

September 5, 2009 | 10:55 am
Firefighters today gained control of the western side of the massive Station fire, including the Little Tujunga and Pacoima canyon areas, and are focusing their attack on the eastern flank deep in the San Gabriel Wilderness above Monrovia and Duarte.

Overnight containment of the 154,000-acre blaze, the largest in Los Angeles County history, rose to 49% as temperatures dropped and humidity rose. The cooling weather trend is expected through Wednesday, opening an opportunity for an aggressive attack before temperatures are expected to rise again late next week.

"There will be no fire progression on the western side," said Nathan Judy, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service. "You might still see smoke from Highway 14."

Although there were no evacuation orders this morning, fire officials are keeping watch over about 7,000 foothill homes in Arcadia, Sierra Madre and Duarte.
 
John Tripp, chief deputy for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said that a total of 76 homes had been destroyed in the fire and that 13 had been damaged. Two firefighters died in the fire, which officials said was arson.

Crews will begin work on setting fire lines north of Cogswell Dam and south of Angeles Crest Highway, Judy said. Those crews, he said, will also camp out in the forest. 
"We’re going at it," he said. 

On the northeast side, crews set fire lines from Chilao to Bare Mountain, and have saved several campgrounds, including the Newcomb Ranch and U.S. Forest Service offices, Judy said. In the southeast, firefighters improved control lines from Mt. Wilson eastward.
"Mt. Wilson is looking really good," Judy said.

Containment of the wildfire is projected for Sept. 15.

The deadly Station fire has cost more than $37 million to fight, and officials are still assessing the toll to property, wildlife and forest facilities.

Jody Noiron of the U.S. Forest Service said the fire had displaced animals that are thirsty and hungry and may be injured. She said residents should contact the proper authorities if they have wildlife in their yards.

Officials are also beginning to worry about erosion when the rains come. Even with the fire still going, they are clearing out debris basins.

Officials said 10 firefighters had been taken to a hospital in two separate incidents, in which it appears they had stumbled upon hazardous materials. At one of those sites, health officials detected cyanide and one firefighter remains in the hospital. Officials are still not sure where the cyanide came from.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has said investigators are probing the deaths as homicides. A source told The Times that "material that didn’t belong there" has been found at the site suspected to be where the fire started, a twice-scorched slope cordoned off by crime scene tape near Mile Marker 29 along Angeles Crest Highway.

The source would not identify the suspicious substance but said it was found in the brush off the highway, within walking distance of the turnoff at the center of the arson probe. The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it was an ongoing investigation, said the substance was taken to a lab for testing. The material is not a device, according to the source.

-- Ruben Vives at Hansen Dam and Ari B. Bloomekatz

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