L.A. County Coroner’s officials have confirmed that two firefighters were killed when their vehicle overturned in the Angeles National Forest, south of Acton, where fire crews anxiously worked to contain the monstrous Station fire. The 35,000-acre fire threatened over 10,000 homes, 500 commercial properties and 2,000 other structures and rained ash on cars as far away as downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, spreading in all directions in hot, dry conditions. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urged those in the fire’s path to listen to authorities and get out.
Firefighters focused their attention on the blaze’s fast-moving northern front as more evacuations were ordered in the Los Angeles suburbs. The flames were nearing Mount Wilson, home to a historic observatory and transmitters for every major television and radio station in the area. Television stations say if the antennas burn broadcast signals will be affected but satellite and cable transmissions should not be. Another fire broke near the city of Yucaipa Sunday, and Oak Glenn residents were told to evacuate. Dubbed the Oak Glenn fire, the blaze has scorched more than 350 acres with no signs of containment. There were no reports of injuries or structural damage. While thousands have already fled the Station fire, two people who tried to ride out the firestorm in a backyard hot tub were critically burned. The pair in Big Tujunga Canyon, on the southwestern edge of the fire, “completely underestimated the fire” and the hot tub provided “no protection whatsoever,” Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said Sunday. Another three people were injured in the fire Saturday in areas with evacuations in effect. “There were people that did not listen, and there were three people that got burned and got critically injured because they did not listen,” Schwarzenegger said at a news conference at the fire command post. The blaze was only about 5 percent contained and had scorched 55 square miles in the Angeles National Forest. Mandatory evacuations were in effect for neighborhoods in Acton, Altadena, Pasadena, La Crescenta and Big Tujunga Canyon. Officials said air quality in parts of the foothills bordered on hazardous. By Saturday night, mandatory evacuation orders were lifted for areas on Vista Del Valle Road between Angeles Crest Highway and La Canada Blvd.; La Canada Blvd. north of Vista Del Valle Rd.; Big Briar Way off Haskell St.; El Vago St. between La Canada Blvd. and Alta Canyada Rd; Donna Maria Ln.; Indian Dr.; Hacienda Dr.; Alta Canyada Rd. north of El Vago St. and Linda Vista Dr. On Sunday, mandatory evacuation orders were lifted for neighborhoods north of Santa Carlotta between Lowell and Pennsylvania Avenues in Glendale. However, new evacuation orders were issued for residences in La Canada/Flintridge homes east of Jenssen Drive, northeast of Los Amigos St. east of Castle Road and east of Ocean View Road, as well as all residences to the south of Soledad Canyon Road from Highway 14 to Crown Valley Road and all residences in Alison Canyon Road from Angeles Forest Highway to Soledad Canyon Road in Acton. For a complete list of evacuation orders, click here. At least three homes deep in the Angeles National Forest were confirmed destroyed, but firefighters were likely to find others, Dietrich said. Firefighters hoped to keep the blaze from spreading up Mount Wilson, where many of the region’s broadcast and communications antennas and a historic observatory are located. Flames were within two miles of the towers Sunday, fire officials said. For the third straight day, humidity was very low and temperatures were expected in the high 90s. Some 2,000 firefighters were battling the blaze. The fire traveled six to eight miles overnight, burning as actively during the night as it did during the day, said Forest Service Capt. Mike Dietrich. Dietrich said he had never seen a fire grow so quickly without powerful Santa Ana winds to push it. “The leading edge, the one they’re really focused on, is that northern edge. It’s moving pretty fast up in that direction,” said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Randi Jorgenson. “But the fire’s growing in all directions. All fronts are going to be areas of concern today.” At the fire command post, Schwarzenegger praised firefighters for successfully protecting subdivisions in the foothills. Rob Driscoll and his wife, Beth Halaas, said they lost their house in Big Tujunga Canyon. By Sunday morning they were desperate for more information and came to the command post to get answers. “Our neighbors sent us photos of all the other houses that are lost,” Halaas said, her voice breaking as her young son nestled his sunburned face in her arms. “We’ve heard as many as 30 houses burned.” Driscoll said 15 of his neighbors who live on private property within the forest were still waiting for word on their homes. Fire officials assured them teams were working to survey the damage. At least four evacuation centers were set up at schools and community centers in the area. The fire, which broke out Wednesday afternoon, was the largest and most dangerous of several burning around southern and central California and in Yosemite National Park. A second fire, dubbed the Morris Fire, in the Angeles National Forest was burning several miles to the east in a canyon above the city of Azusa. The 3.4-square-mile blaze, which started Tuesday afternoon, was 95 percent contained Sunday. No homes were threatened, and full containment was expected by Monday. The Oak Glenn fire broke Sunday near the city of Yucaipa, quickly charring 350 acres with no signs of containment. Oak Glenn residents were told to evacuate to the Yucaipa Community Center. A wildfire on the Palos Verdes Peninsula on the south Los Angeles County coast was 100 percent contained, according to county fire officials. Southeast of Los Angeles in Riverside County, a 3.8-square-mile fire, known as the Cottonwood fire, was burning in a rural area of the San Bernardino National Forest. It was 75 percent contained as it burned in steep, rocky terrain in Beeb Canyon. No structures were threatened. To the north, in the state’s coastal midsection, a 9.4-square-mile fire threatening Pinnacles National Monument kept 100 homes under evacuation orders near the Monterey County town of Soledad. The blaze, 60 percent contained, was started by agricultural fireworks used to scare animals away from crops. The fire destroyed one home. In Mariposa County, a nearly 6.8-square-mile fire burned in Yosemite National Park. The blaze was 50 percent contained Sunday, said park spokeswoman Vickie Mates. Two people sustained minor injuries, she said. Park officials closed a campground and a portion of Highway 120, anticipating that the fire would spread north toward Tioga Road, the highest elevation route through the Sierra. About 100 residents from the towns of El Portal and Foresta were under evacuation orders, said Brad Aborn, chairman of Mariposa’s Board of Supervisors. Statewide, there were eight large fires burning that scorched about 55,000 acres, according to Gov. Schwarzenegger.
Story by: CBS photos:ABC.com