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Evacuations issued in La Canada-Flintridge

August 27, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two brush fires continue to burn in the Angeles National Forest on Thursday. The Station Fire is burning above La Canada-Flintridge, while the Morris Fire is in steep terrain above Azusa.Residents of about 500 homes have been told to evacuate in La Canada-Flintridge. The Station Fire, moving northwest, has crested a ridge and is burning downhill towards neighborhoods.

The mandatory evacuations were ordered at about 10:30 p.m. Thursday night, as the flames made their way slowly down from the San Gabriel Mountains. Residents have been told to get their cars packed and be ready to go.

Mandatory evacuations are in effect for areas north of Vista del Valle Road, east of La Canada Boulevard extending into the La Canada Country Club area. Camp High Hill by Red Box and Clear Creek Outdoor Education Center were also under mandatory evacuations.

The evacuation center for those residents is Crescenta Valley High School at 2900 Community Avenue in La Crescenta.

So far no structures have burned, but the Angeles Crest Ranger Station is being threatened.

The fire kicked up late Thursday afternoon as the blaze blackened at least 500 acres of heavy brush, with about 5 percent containment. More than 700 firefighters are battling the flames.

Residents are keeping a close eye on the flames in case they need to make a quick exit.

"It has just come over the crest of the mountain there and just spread out sideways, you could just see the flames jumping over the hill," said Leslie Lecheminant, a La Canada-Flintridge resident.

"Hopefully it will be, you know, contained soon because there are a lot of houses up there," said Richard Hovespian, a La Canada-Flintridge resident.

Firefighters will continue to work through the night.

The blaze broke out in rugged, steep terrain in the Angeles National Forest at about 3:20 p.m. Wednesday. One of the biggest challenges for firefighters has been the high temperatures and the low humidity.

Voluntary evacuations are in effect for Rainbow Ranch along Highway 2 north of the golf course in La Canada.

Highway 2 is closed north of the golf course, and Angeles Crest Highway is closed from La Canada to Clear Creek Junction.

Meanwhile, more than 1,200 firefighters are battling the Morris Fire. The second fire in the Angeles National Forest has burned 2,000 acres since it broke out Tuesday afternoon and is 60 percent contained.

Mandatory evacuations remain in effect for Camp Williams on E Fork Road off of Highway 39. Voluntary evacuations have been issued above Valley of the Moon tree farm. An evacuation center has been set up at El Robles Intermediate School in Claremont.

The fire is not threatening any homes, but it has been a very difficult fire to fight.

Authorities said Highway 39 and Glendora Mountain Road will remain closed while fire crews battle the blaze.

Smoke from the two brush fires has created unhealthy air conditions for people in the area.

"It kind of hurt when I was breathing heavily," said local resident Walter Adajar.

Health officials recommend everyone limit outdoor activity in areas where you see or smell smoke.

"Anybody with heart disease or underlying pulmonary problems or lung problems, if they don't feel right, or especially if they're short of breath, they should come to the emergency department," said Dr. Roy Antelyes from Huntington Memorial Emergency.

The cause of both brush fires is unknown at this time.

While the lack of wind is helping firefighters make progress, residents in the valley could use the wind to clear all the smoke in the air.

"We're trying to stay inside a bit more, keep the windows closed, stay quiet, stay out of the heat and inside the good air," said Azusa resident Dolly Dodson.

The bad air is even harder on training athletes. The smoke forced Azusa High School's cross country team inside.

"We canceled practice yesterday, but we're trying to get ready for the season, so I decided to have practice today, but of course it's bad out here, so we ran in the gym and did a weight workout," said Patricia Dorsey, Azusa High School's track coach.

A National Weather Service red flag warning signifying a high risk of wildfire went into effect Wednesday morning for the mountains and foothills of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles Counties, including the Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area.

The warning, covering the Angeles and Los Padres national forests, was scheduled to expire at 9 p.m. Friday.

Eyewitness News reporters John Gregory and Leslie Miller contributed to this story.

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