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Station fire, among state's top 10, moves toward Littlerock, Juniper Hills

September 6, 2009 |  9:51 am

The Station fire grew to 157,220 acres overnight, making it the 10th-largest fire in California’s modern history, fire officials said today.

The fire, already the largest in modern history in Los Angeles County, was 51% contained, officials said.

Incident Commander Mike Dietrich said more than 4,800 personnel were working on the blaze and that one of the main priorities continued to be the eastern edge of the fire in the San Gabriel Wilderness, where flames “boiled out of Devil’s Canyon.” The fire also yesterday jumped north over a fire break at the Angeles Crest Highway.

Officials said the fire jumping the highway caused them to regroup and reassess their plan there. Meanwhile, a large plume of smoke drifted into the areas of Juniper Hills and Littlerock.

There are currently no evacuations, but officials said a platoon of 50 Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies had been sent into those communities in case an evacuation, voluntary or mandatory, was needed.

“We wanted to have a presence in that area,” said Michael Bryant, another encident commander. He said the fire “continues like a chess game.” “We do something, the fire does something different,” he said, noting how active and dynamic this blaze was.

Bryant said the fire was about five miles from Juniper Hills. “We want our communities not to panic,” Bryant said. Fire officials said the fire’s jump of the highway also threatened several structures.

It was not immediately clear how much damage was done in the area, and Dietrich said that it was too dangerous overnight for damage assessment teams to move in. Among the facilities still threatened was the Angeles Crest Christian Camp, and officials said they were unsure if it had been damaged.

The shape of the fire on that part of the eastern edge was somewhat of a horseshoe, with the open end to the northeast and with flames surrounding the Mt. Hillyer and Chilao area. Dietrich also said the Mt. Wilson area was “doing excellent, very good,” but that the fire was “munching, nibbling” on the southeastern area.

On the western edge of the blaze, near Pacoima Canyon, the fire continued to burn in steep and heavy terrain, but it was mostly contained on the most northern edges and to the southwest, officials said. One firefighter who was exposed to cyanide last week remained in the hospital, but was not in life-threatening condition, officials said.

Another firefighter earlier reported to have a broken leg apparently suffered only a deep bruise and was released from the hospital, Bryant said. In addition to the two firefighters who died Aug. 30, nine firefighters have been injured in the Station fire.

Roughly 5,000 residences are threatened and 76 have been destroyed in the fire, officials said. The fire so far has cost about $43.5 million to battle.

-- Ari B. Bloomekatz at Hansen Dam