TOPICS > World

SoCal Fire Grows, Threatens Los Angeles Suburbs

BY Quinn Bowman  September 1, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST

A U.S. Forest Service crew fight a fire in La Crescenta, California. Courtesy Getty Images

Higher humidity overnight helped slow the fire’s growth, the U.S. Forest Service said. But the fire is still advancing toward thousands of suburban homes and a mountaintop broadcasting complex.

“This is a very angry fire. Until we get a change in the weather conditions, I am not overly optimistic. The fire is headed just about anywhere it wants,” U.S. Forest Service incident commander Mike Dietrich told the Los Angeles Times.

“We are still at five percent containment, however with firefighting activity that occurred last night and the last several days, I expect that will increase substantially today,” Dietrich said.

According to a U.S. Forest Service Web site (http://inciweb.org/incident/1856/) that tracks the fires, firefighters are focusing on keeping the fire within a boundary of highways north of Los Angeles and the foothill communities near the mountains.

The U.S. Forest Service cites: “steep terrain, decadent old growth brush and hot dry weather” as contributors to the large Station fire. Firefighters are also clearing vegetation with a controlled fire in order to create a boundary that will protect buildings.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said during a news conference that the state was doing all that it could to fight the fires.

“We want people to know we are doing everything we can to help save lives, property and memories,” he said.

Schwarzenegger said that 78 structures have been destroyed, two firefighters killed and 14 injured because of the eight fires burning in the state.

Fire Capt. Tedmund Hall and Firefighter Specialist Arnaldo Quinones died when their vehicle tumbled over a mountainside as they tried to escape a fast-moving section of the fire.

The largest of at least eight fires burning in California is the Station Fire in the Angeles National Forest. The fire began Aug. 26 after days of triple-digit temperatures and low humidity. Its cause has not been determined.

California's Largest Wildfires vs. the Station Fire

The flames have scorched more than 160 square miles of brush. Fire crews have lit backfires and sprayed fire retardant at Mount Wilson, home to at least 20 television transmission towers, radio and cell phone antennas, and the century-old Mount Wilson Observatory.

The fire was expected to travel another half mile to the area sometime Monday night, Los Angeles County fire Capt. Mark Whaling told the Associated Press. If the flames hit the mountain, cell phone service and TV and radio transmissions would be disrupted, but the extent was unclear.