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Massive Station Fire ruled arson

September 3, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Fire officials say the massive Station Fire in the Angeles National Forest is the result of arson.U.S. Forest Service investigators say forensic evidence collected from where the Station Fire started shows the wildfire was deliberately set. So far no arrests have been made, but after the deaths of two firefighters, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has launched a homicide investigation. "It doesn't fix the broken heart, you know, it's very difficult on all of us," said Capt. Bryant.

Los Angeles County Fire 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.

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.

A private tribute for the fallen firefighters will be held at the command post Friday morning. A public memorial has been scheduled for Sept. 12 at Dodger Stadium.

The Station Fire has burned 147,418 acres and is 38 percent contained. It is now the largest fire in L.A. County history. Full containment on the blaze is expected on September 15.

It broke out August 26 at mile marker 29. The heavy brush and low humidity caused the fire to spread rapidly.

Capt. Mike Dietrich, the Station Fire incident commander, said fire crews made excellent progress battling the blaze Thursday.

However, six firefighters were injured Thursday after being exposed to hazardous material while conducting mop-up operations on the northeast corner of the fire.

"They were mopping up on the ground and hit some hot spots. And some gas of some type came up from the site and they felt nauseous and were transported to the hospital," said Dietrich.

The firefighters were not seriously injured and were recovering.

The latest on the fire is as follows:
  • 147,418 acres
  • 38 percent contained
  • 64 homes destroyed
  • 27 outbuildings destroyed (including garages, sheds, gazebos)
  • 3 commercial buildings destroyed
  • 2 communication sites
  • 6 homes damaged
  • 5 outbuildings damaged
  • 2 firefighter fatalities
  • 7 injuries
An estimated 6,000 homes and 200 commercial buildings remain threatened.

Flareups prompted authorities to evacuate 25 homes Thursday morning in the Pacoima Canyon area. Officials asked residents in the Dillon Divide, Pacoima Creek area to clear out by 7 a.m.

Most other evacuation orders have been lifted. The Dukmejian Wilderness Park and bulk of the Angeles National Forest was closed and will remain off-limits at least through the holiday weekend.

Fire officials said the blaze flared up in the Pacoima Canyon area between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.

"The fire was very active there last night, and operations just called for that evacuation in the last hour," said Capt. Mark Savage from the L.A. County Fire Department.

Cal Fire Capt. Scott Visyak said they are also seeing extreme fire behavior in the Devil's Canyon area.

Officials said the majority of the foothill areas are not threatened. Firefighters are crediting the good weather conditions, with higher humidity levels and light winds.

The weather is expected to remain relatively unchanged for the next several days.

The fire on Thursday is burning in steep, rugged, inaccessible terrain in the San Gabriel Wilderness area.

"My number one priority for today is the area southeast of the fire above the communities of Arcadia, Sierra Madre and so on, moving toward the east, and our intent is to keep that fire as high up the hill away from the communities as we can," said Dietrich.

There are more than 4,100 firefighters currently battling the blaze.

The threat to Mount Wilson, home to an historic observatory and communications tower used by the bulk of Southland television and radio stations, has diminished, according to fire commanders.

Despite concluding that the fire was arson, fire and sheriff's officials did not immediately say exactly how the fire was started.

Authorities are asking for the public's help to find the person or persons responsible for starting the Station Fire. Anyone with information is asked to call L.A. County Sheriff's homicide detectives at (323) 890-5500.

People wishing to donate money to help the families of the two fatally injured firefighters can send donations to:

Memorial fund at the F&A Credit Union
P.O. Box 30831
Los Angeles, CA 90030-9972

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