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Firefighters on high alert for wildfires

September 22, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Firefighters were keeping a cautious eye Tuesday morning on the hot spots still smoldering from the recent Station Fire. Wind-fueled embers could spark a whole new fire. Conditions are dry and a red-flag warning goes into effect overnight. Firefighters are preparing to prevent disaster.Gusty Santa Ana winds are in the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday. A red-flag warning goes into effect at 4 a.m. Tuesday. Firefighters are preparing for consistent winds of 25 to 35 miles per hour, with gusts up to 45 miles per hour.

The Station Fire is not yet fully contained. Containment was at 93 percent Monday afternoon.

The Station Fire is Los Angeles County's largest fire ever. It has burned more than 160,000 acres -- roughly 250 square miles. Two firefighters were killed in the fire, which has destroyed 89 homes. Officials say arson is the cause of the wildfire that started August 26. The fire was 94 percent contained Monday afternoon. The cost of fighting the Station Fire is calculated at more than $83 million.

Mount Wilson got another coating of Phos-Chek retardant over the weekend to protect the observatory and the radio and TV towers.

Infrared cameras show smoldering hot spots near Mount Wilson and in the San Gabriel Mountains deep in the forest.

Helicopters have dropped 80,000 gallons of water in steep, narrow canyons to try to snuff out the threat that remains.

"Potentially, it could be a great threat. It is a very serious threat to the forest and the structures here, but we feel pretty safe that with the actions taken prior to the wind event, that we're ahead of it and on top of it," said Stan Bercovitz, U.S. Forest Service.

Expected to be mixed in with the strong winds are high temperatures and low humidity, just the combination that could bring the still-smoking hot spots roaring back to life.

"When the wind actually starts developing later tonight, early tomorrow morning, we'll be all up and hopefully just chasing a few embers around, and that will be the worst of it," said Darryl Dutton, L.A. County Fire Dept.

"Seems we've been just blessed that the fires have always died down before they can burn any homes over here," said Altadena resident Erma Johnson.

East of Temecula, a fire near Vail Lake charred 350 acres and destroyed 12 structures, including eight homes, on Saturday. One resident was treated for smoke inhalation. The fire is contained.

Fire crews across Southern California will be on alert as a red flag warning goes into effect at midnight.

Eyewitness News Reporter Melissa MacBride contributed to this report.

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