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Human-Caused Station Fire Burns 140,000 Acres and Counting

September 3rd, 2009 by Temple City Tribune

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Monrovia and Sierra Madre Cut Fire Lines in Preparation for Possible Advance
Though the state has spent $21 million battling the Station Fire, and over $108 million since the first of July, it will be nearly impossible to calculate monetarily the cost of California’s largest fire since 1897. With over 140,000 acres of forest and 53 homes already destroyed, thousands displaced by mandatory evacuations, untold damage to Angeles Forest flora and fauna and the loss of two firefighters, the true toll of the Station Fire is far from tallied.

Two firefighters – Capt. Tedmund Hall, 47, of San Bernardino and Firefighter Specialist Arnaldo “Arnie” Quinones, 35, of Palmdale – were killed when their vehicle fell off a mountain road on Sunday as they veered to avoid a burst of flames. Quinones’ wife is expecting a child in two weeks and Hall has a wife and two adult children. Flags at all Pasadena fire stations have been at half-staff in memory of Arnaldo Quinones and Tedmund Hall of the Los Angeles County Fire Department who died in the line of duty on Sunday. Pasadena Fire Department personnel also are wearing black bands across their badges in honor of their fallen brothers.

The 53 homes destroyed included some forest cabins, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Dennis Cross. At the time, he did not know how many of those destroyed were full-time residences.

New reports from fire officials on Wednesday afternoon confirmed that the fire is now believed to have been started by humans, rather than by lightening or some other natural occurrence. While they have said the fire was caused by humans, officials have been quick to point out that this does not necessarily mean the fire’s genesis was intentional. Currently, arson investigators are currently inspecting the area around mile marker 29 of the Angeles Crest Highway – where the fire is believed to have started – in search of a more definite cause.

In one major victory which spared the Mt. Wilson Observatory and radio and television broadcast towers, crews set backfires and sprayed flame retardant around the top of Mount Wilson, which has been threatened since the fire began. Structural protection crews are still in place on Mount Wilson continuing preparation for its defense. While the mountain top is not yet entirely out of harm’s way, crews are more optimistic about its defense after additional fuel break constructions have been put in place.
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With the fire having spread to cover an area in excess of 190 square miles by Wednesday afternoon, firefighters had a slight reprieve from the onslaught of fire thanks to backfires set by Los Angeles County Fire and “Hot Shot” crews in the Angeles National Forest. The backfires are a common practice to help stop the advancing fire.
Higher levels of humidity beginning Monday night and rising through Tuesday and Wednesday have aided the firefighting process significantly, according to fire officials. Winds were also low on Wednesday, keeping the fire’s spread somewhat more in check. On the west flank of the fire crews manage several successful burnout operations. An additional fire camp to support fire operations has been set up at Central Park in Santa Clarita.

The goal of the firefighting effort is to keep the fire west of Highway 39 and Angeles Crest Highway, east of Interstate 5, south of Highway 14, Pearblossom Highway, and Highway 138, and north of the foothill communities and the Angeles National Forest Boundary. But Steep terrain and dry, old growth brush, some of which has not burned for over 100 years have made efforts doubly difficult.

The Pasadena Public Health Department is reminding everyone that air quality remains unhealthy due to the Station Fire. According to air Health Dept officials, everyone should take precautions when they are outside and avoid unnecessary outdoor activities, especially people with respiratory or heart disease, pregnant women, elderly persons and children. Schools that are in session, after-school programs and children’s sports organizations have been advised to cancel outdoor activities until conditions improve.
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The Pasadena Fire Department has two fire engines and 10 personnel on the fire lines to assist in combating the Station Fire. They are working side-by-side with firefighters from many other jurisdictions who have been assigned to the blaze. Firefighters from as far away as New Mexico are on the lines battling the blaze alongside California firefighters.

“I am immensely proud of the men and women of the Pasadena Fire Department, other city departments and all personnel from other agencies who are responding to this devastating fire,” said Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard. “Our community has a long history of rallying during times of emergency. I commend the Pasadena businesses, organizations and residents who have donated their time and resources to assist with this immense effort.”

Evacuation shelters have been set up at La Canada High School; La Crescenta Valley High School and Golden Valley High School, Marie Kerr Park, Verdugo High School.
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Animal shelters are located at Antelope Valley Fairgrounds, as well as the following special needs shelters: Pierce College (horses, donkeys and mules ONLY), Lancaster Animal Shelter and Agoura Animal Shelter are both accepting small animals. Additionally, the Pasadena Humane Society has already taken in over 300 displaced pets.

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