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Residents urged to flee: Your life is at risk

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa also stressed the seriousness of the evacuation orders, saying the city could be facing a possible 'La Conchita-type mudslide,' referencing a Jan. 10, 2005, mudslide in the small coastal Ventura County town.

January 20, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Due to the number of homeowners refusing to leave the foothill communities, L.A. officials pleaded with residents to follow evacuation orders before lives were put at risk. The third storm is expected to pound hillsides already saturated by the first two storms. "The Station Fire left the largest burned area in this county's history, and this week, we're facing the largest and worst storm in recent memory," said L.A. Councilman Greg Krikorian. "The combination of those two things presents an unprecedented risk that nobody has ever seen before

The city announced Tuesday night that it was ordering the evacuations of 262 homes in the Southern Tujunga communities of Alpine Village, Seven Hills, Blanchard Canyon Road, Tujunga and Riverwood due to the possibility of flooding and mudslides. Los Angeles County officials issued evacuation orders that apply to 489 homes in La Canada-Flintridge, La Crescenta, Acton and Glendale.

"This storm, the rain that's about to come, the areas that have been burned, have created a situation where we could be looking at a La Conchita-type mudslide," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said during a Wednesday news conference.

Villaraigosa was referencing a mudslide in La Conchita that killed 10 people on Jan. 10, 2005. Thirteen homes were destoyed and 23 others were damaged when the hillside gave way in the small Ventura County town.

"This is not just hyperbole here," the mayor said. "We're asking people to cooperate, to take this seriously."

L.A. County Sheriff's deputies went door-to-door on Wednesday morning, but despite warnings, many are staying put. Officials are especially concerned with those in the Sunland-Tujunga communities.

"There's a segment of this community, I must say, that is resistant and they are not adhering to the orders," Los Angeles City Fire Chief Millage Peaks said.

"We don't want to see any casualties. We don't want to see any loss of life. I don't want to have to place my firefighters in jeopardy to effect a rescue," Peaks said.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck urged homeowners to obey the evacuation orders, repeatedly stating, "Your life is at risk."

"We're not doing it because we think your lawn is going to get dirty. We're not doing it because your carpet's going to get wet. We're doing it because your life is at risk," Beck said.

"If you have been told to evacuate, do so. Your life is at risk."

City News Service contributed to this story.