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Flare up in NE area of Station Fire

September 7, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The massive Station Fire continues to cause problems for firefighters. After a weekend of good progress, there was a flare up in the northeast area of the fire Monday. Crews continue their battle to put out the massive blaze as the flames continue to race out of control on the eastern edge. "This has been a real tough fight. It's a lot of difficult challenges. Every time we implement a strategy the fire seems to move in another direction," said Dep. Chief Mike Bryant of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

A change in the weather on Monday forced fire officials to cancel plans to burn out brush to create a buffer zone near the foothill communities on the southeastern flank of the fire.

The U.S. Forest Service says the weather didn't cooperate and the aircraft needed to support and monitor the burnout operations were diverted to the fire's northeastern edge.

The flames are feeding off leaf litter on the ground, old growth and dead timber.

Now in its 13th day, the blaze is burning deeper into the wilderness. Nearly a quarter of the Angeles National Forest is a blackened and barren landscape.

Overall, crews are continuing to make progress against the Station Fire, which is now 56 percent contained.

Fire officials say the entire western perimeter from Pacoima to Eaton Canyon has been contained. The focus will continue on to the fire's eastern edge, which is still burning out of control in the San Gabriel Wilderness along Highway 39.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has issued a boil water order for evacuees returning home.

The southern portion of the Angeles National Forest is closed until further notice. The closure will affect the use of all national forest recreational facilities, roads and hiking trails.

The closure area consists of all National Forest System lands within the Angeles National Forest south and east of State Route 14 and State Route 138.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, it is just too dangerous to allow visitors to roam around or set up camp in these areas.

"We just want to keep people out of that area, keep them safe," said Nathan Judy of the U.S. Forest Service. "We have trees that are standing that might be dead and can fall over, a rock fall out that could roll down and fall on top of people so we don't want to open those areas until it's safe to do so. The guard rail is gone so until we get that guard rail put back in, we don't want to insert people in there."

If you are caught in a closed-off area, you can be cited and face a fine of up to $5,000 and six months in jail.

The arson-sparked fire has burned more than 157,000 acres and destroyed 76 homes.

It is also blamed for the deaths of two firefighters. Capt. Ted Hall and firefighter Arnie Quinones both died Aug. 30 when their vehicle went over the side of a steep mountain road. Investigators said the vehicle was airlifted off a mountain Monday and taken to a secure location for analysis.

Ten firefighters have also been injured.

It is the largest fire in L.A. County history, and the cost of fighting it is up to $57.6 million so far. Full containment on the blaze is expected on Sept. 15.

The U.S. Forest Service cautioned the tens of thousands of foothill residents, who have returned to their homes, to be careful as animals flee from the blackened slopes. If you encounter a wild animal you are urged to stay away from it.

"You know some of those animals might be hurt, burnt and they could be aggressive towards humans so we want to make sure you stay away from it," said Judy. "If you see some of those animals in your backyard, call your law enforcement, get the humane society out there to go deal with those animals so you guys don't put yourselves in danger. We just don't want folks out there hurting themselves."

Meanwhile, Los Angeles County sheriff's and fire investigators continue their homicide investigation into the fire. Officials have said the cause of the fire was arson but have released no findings.

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.

The governor has authorized a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the arsonist.

A public memorial is set up for the firefighters on Sept.12 at Dodgers Stadium.

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

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

Road closures

  • Santa Anita Canyon Rd. to Chantry Flats
  • Aliso Canyon Rd at Angeles Forest Hwy
  • Big Tujunga Rd at Angeles Forest Hwy
  • Big Rock Creek Rd at Big Pines Rd
  • Hwy 39 between San Gabriel Canyon Rd and East Fork Rd
  • Soledad Canyon Rd at Indian Canyon. Trail Head
  • Angeles Crest Hwy. between Big Pines Hwy. and mile marker 26.7 north of Altadena
  • Big Pines at SR-2 (Antelope Valley)
  • Chaney Trail at Angeles National Forest gate (Loma Alta)

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