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In hillside neighborhood, L.A. County fire battalion chief checks on those who stayed behind

January 21, 2010 | 11:36 am

On Ocean View Boulevard in La Cañada Flintridge, Los Angeles County Fire Battalion Chief Steve Martin came through the neighborhood just before 11 a.m. to check on people who had declined to evacuate.

The houses that remained occupied were marked with pink ribbons.

“In case things go bad, we want to know how to get to them,” he said. “We’re trying to keep the folks who have stayed on the radar screen.“

Fire officials, he said, are mostly concerned about two things: the slow drizzle of rain that is saturating the hillsides, and unpredictable thunderstorm cells that can deluge portions of the mountains, causing sudden slides.

“This is more unpredictable than fires,” he said. “It’s more like earthquakes.“

In most of the evacuation areas, 50% to 80% of the residents have left, he said. But he acknowledged that with repeated warnings, it’s getting harder to persuade some people to leave.

”I just hope we don’t find out the hard way,” he said.

Martin also checked on a catch basin at Manistee Drive, just to the east of houses on Ocean View. The previous day, the catch basin had been full to the brim with water. But today it was flowing well, despite a thick wall of burned debris stacked up like a dam near one end.

-- Jill Leovy in La Cañada Flintridge