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Crews step up final attack on Station fire

September 19, 2009 |  2:07 pm

With extreme heat, wind and low humidity in the forecast next week, firefighters today stepped up their final attack on the Station fire, calling in four helicopters to douse hot spots near Mt. Wilson with water and fire retardant.

Fire officials feel a sense of urgency to extinguish still-smoldering areas and reduce the risk of embers igniting brush during the hot days ahead. Of particular concern were hot spots in rugged, inaccessible terrain on the north face of Mt. Wilson, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Brian Grant said.

The arson-caused fire that claimed the lives of two firefighters was 93% contained and has cost nearly $84 million to fight. More than 700 firefighters remain on the fire lines.

The aerial assault was expected to continue into next week as needed, Grant said. Separately, a tactical water tender equipped with fire retardant was expected to begin treating fuels as early as Sunday.

On another front, two Caltrans crews were alternating 12-hour shifts to fix the 33 miles of Angeles Crest Highway that have been closed because of the fire, from 2.2 miles north of La Cañada Flintridge to just west of Wrightwood.

It will cost an estimated $12 million and take more than three months to fix the highway, which was heavily damaged by a wildfire that has scorched 160,500 acres, according to Kelly Markham, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation, which maintains the road.

Four miles’ worth of guard rails must be replaced, since the wooden posts to which their metal beams were attached have burned and the beams are now lying on the ground. Hundreds of road signs burned, and many of the thermoplastic markings dotting the pavement have melted.

“Basically, it’s the entire road that needs to be fixed,” Markham said.

--Louis Sahagun and Susan Carpenter