Firefighters Tested As Wildfires Sweep Through California


Fire crews watch as a planned back fire burns itself out behind a home on Forest Green Drive in La Cañada Flintridge.

Fire crews watch as a planned back fire burns itself out behind a home on Forest Green Drive.

Firefighters found themselves beating back flames that were whipping through the mountains north of Los Angeles Saturday. The wildfires spread over nearly 9 square miles of bone-dry forest, causing many residents to evacuate and putting a halt to air operations, according to officials.

The success of an overnight air and ground battle against a swift-moving blaze on the Palos Verdes Peninsula was tempered by the threat from an out-of-control fire on the opposite side of Los Angeles in the steep San Gabriel Mountains above the city of La Canada Flintridge.

The blaze in the steep San Gabriel Mountains spread out in all directions Friday, the most active flanks to the north, deeper into the forest and east, said Forest Service spokesman Stanton Florea.

Authorities issued a mandatory evacuation notice early Saturday morning for 150 homes with homes located within a half-square-mile area and on the slopes of the San Gabriel Mountains. An evacuation center was set up at La Canada High School. Residents nervously watched aircraft drop loads of water and retardant on nearby blazing slopes.

According to Forest Service spokesperson Jessica Luna, the blaze continued to move out in all directions, the most active flanks to the north, deeper into the forest, and east. The fire was 5 percent contained. “It’s difficult for water-dropping aircraft to get in there, but they’re still trying,” said Luna. She added that hot, dry weather was expected all day Saturday, but crews were hopeful that winds would remain light.

Crews are adamantly focusing on preventing the wildfire from spreading to Mount Wilson, where many of the region’s broadcast and communications antennas and the historic Mount Wilson Observatory are located.

This instance is simply one in a slew of wildfires occurring in the Los Angles area. A second fire in the Angeles National Forest was burning several miles to the east in a canyon above the city of Azusa. The blaze, which started Tuesday afternoon, was 85 percent contained Saturday. No homes were threatened, and full containment was expected by Monday.

A wildfire on the Palos Verdes Peninsula on the south Los Angeles County coast was 90 percent contained Saturday morning, according to County Fire Captain Mike Brown. As many as 1,500 people were forced to flee at the height of the fire Thursday night.

Southeast of Los Angeles in Riverside County, a fire in a rural area of the San Bernardino National Forest was 10 percent contained. No structures were threatened. Temperatures were expected to top 100 degrees in the region, but winds remained light.

To the north, in the state’s coastal midsection, a 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 the southern part of Monterey County, firefighters had 100percent containment of fire that had threatened 20 ranch homes.

A nearly 4.1-square-mile fire in Yosemite National Park was 15 percent contained Saturday morning, said park spokesman Scott Gediman. No structures were threatened.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency Friday in Los Angeles and Monterey counties.

“It’s fire season, clearly,” he said. “There’s tremendous amount of heat all over the state.”

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