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53 structures burned in Station Fire

August 31, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The raging Station Fire in the Angeles National Forest has grown to 105,296 acres on Monday, stretching from the Sunland-Tujunga area in the west to Altadena in the east, all the way to Acton in the Antelope Valley to the north.At least 53 structures have been destroyed, but it is unclear how many of them were homes.

Steve Whitmore from the L.A. County Sheriff's Department said Monday afternoon that officials had to rescue five people who were trapped at a ranch in the Gold Canyon area north of Lake View Terrace, after they refused to follow mandatory evacuation orders issued at least two days ago.

Fire crews were unable to immediately reach them because of the intense flames in the area. Whitmore said rescue crews were being forced to risk their lives because people refused to listen to evacuation orders.

Fire crews battled the blaze on Monday with heavy hearts after two firefighters were killed. Capt. Tedmund "Ted" Hall and firefighter Specialist Arnaldo "Arnie" Quinones died Sunday afternoon when their vehicle went over a mountain road near Mount Gleason amid heavy fire.

"We have to move on and do the job that we're here to do, and that's to try to put out this large fire and protect lives and property. That's what we're here for," said Capt. Mark Savage from the L.A. County Fire Department.

Hall, 47, was a member of the Los Angeles County Fire Department for 26 years. He lived in San Bernardino County. Quinones, 35, was a member of the Los Angeles County Fire Department for 8 years. Quinones lived in Palmdale.

"This tragic news reminds us all of the real danger these brave men and women face every day," said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in a statement on Monday.

Fire crews at the command post wore black bands over their badges to honor their fallen comrades.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors ordered all flags on county buildings be lowered to half-staff in memory of the killed firefighters.

In addition to the two firefighter deaths, a firefighter and three civilians -- including two who tried to ride out the fire in a hot tub -- have been injured.

The Station Fire is 5 percent contained on Monday. Fire officials said Monday they hope to have the fire contained by September 8, but later pushed back the expected containment to Sept. 17.

More than 2,700 firefighters are battling the blaze, as 12,000 homes remain threatened. There are 6,600 homes under mandatory evacuation orders.

The fire remains spotty in steep terrain in areas that have not burned in about 40 years. It has not been a wind-driven fire, but the hot weather and low humidity have been hampering firefighters' efforts.

"It's burning everywhere," U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Dianne Cahir said. "When it gets into canyons that haven't burned in numerous years, it takes off. If you have any insight into the good Lord upstairs, put in a request."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency for four counties in the state, including L.A. County.

Super Scoopers from Canada will be available to fire crews on Monday. They can hold 1,600 gallons of water and foam.

The fire is spreading east and north with some northwest spread. Firefighters are making progress on the northwest edge of the blaze. Crews in Glendale and La Canada Flintridge also reported a successful day beating back the fire in those areas.

The fire is approaching Mount Wilson, threatening local TV and radio transmitters, cell phone towers and a historic observatory. If the fire damages the ABC7 tower, fire coverage will be streaming live on abc7.com.

"Mount Wilson is still in threat. We do have crews that were in the area working yesterday to clear the brush around that area to try to save some of that infrastructure when the fire does reach it, which we do expect," said Nathan Judy from the U.S. Forest Service.

Residents in areas of Acton, Littlerock, La Canada Flintridge, Altadena, La Crescenta and Sunland-Tujunga have been told to evacuate.

Schwarzenegger urged residents to get out if ordered to do so.

Many La Crescenta residents were given a premature evacuation order early Monday when a reverse 911 was made to the entire city, urging them to evacuate. Officials have retracted the order. Areas north of Markridge Road have been evacuated.

The wildfire is already taking its toll on residents of Acton. The fire has destroyed at least three homes and has forced hundreds to flee.

L.A. County Sheriff's officials said about half of the 2,300 residents in the Acton community have elected to stay in their homes despite the fire raging around them.

Evacuees said flames have been as high as 80 feet.

Evacuation centers have been set up at La Canada High School, La Crescenta Valley High School, Golden Valley High School, Marie Kerr Park and Verdugo High School.

Residents can bring large animals to the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds, and Pierce College is accepting horses, donkeys and mules. Lancaster and Agoura animal shelters are accepting small animals only. The city of Los Angeles set up a shelter for small animals at Sunland Park and Recreation Center.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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