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The aftermath of the tragic Station fire

Posted by on Sep 14th, 2009 and filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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By Mary O’KEEFE and Robin GOLDWORTHY

The Station fire left few things unscathed as it whipped through the Angeles National Forest. After two weeks it is 62% contained and has blackened 160,357 acres. The cost of fighting the fire has now been estimated at $57,603,000 and has been determined as human caused. It is being investigated as arson by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

IMG_4182The fire that began on Aug. 26 continues to be a slow moving fire as 4,497 personnel continue to battle on the fire lines that include the Juniper Hills area and Mt. Wilson.

A backfire that had been planned for Wednesday in the Mt. Wilson area was canceled due to weather conditions, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Jennifer Sanchez.

“The fire has been consistently slow. All the west side, [including La Crescenta, Tujunga, Sunland and La Cañada] is burned out,” she said.

Firefighters and investigators are now assessing the damage of these areas, Sanchez added.

Landmarks that were recognized by many foothill hikers and others who enjoyed visiting the forest land were decimated by the blaze.

Barley Flats station was one of the well known locations. Not far from Mt. Disappointment, Barley Flats was the former home to a Nike missile site but was used most recently by the L.A. County Sheriffs Dept. The buildings were used as a probation camp until 1992. Though many of the buildings still stand, they are seared and stand precariously.

IMG_4205Another landmark, Hidden Springs Cafe was a place that owner Jim Lewis invited travelers to stop and sit outside his patio to “relax, enjoy and listen to the beautiful sounds of the forest.” Lewis ran the cafe for 32 years. On Aug. 30 the cafe burned to the ground leaving little more than the window frames and the phone booth that sat on the road. Surprisingly, nearby sitting in what looks like a dusting of snow is a cabin that was saved from the fire.

Newcomb’s Ranch is located in the heart of Angeles National Forest and is about a 45 minute drive from Angeles Crest Highway in La Cañada Flintridge. Newcomb’s Ranch offered “delicious casual cuisine and impeccable service that defines unique dining in Greater Los Angeles.” Since the Station fire blasted through, however, the eatery is closed until further notice. Though saved from being consumed by the fire, the restaurant still clings to a film of fire suppression foam. Near its door is a scorched fire danger level sign. It reads that the fire level is “very high.” Exactly how high was beyond anyone’s expectation.

At Vogel Flats in Big Tujunga Canyon, several hazardous material vehicles are parked. Not too far away is Big Tujunga Dam. The dam keeper’s house is near the precipice of the dam, and was not touched by the flames. One cannot help but notice how low the water level is in the dam.

Near one of the camps deep within the smoldering forest, Dep. Robert Sheedy checks on one of the campgrounds to see what, if anything, survived. The fire is now burning in mostly wilderness areas but fire fighters continue to build fire lines to protect structures in the north Juniper Hills area. “The Angeles National Forest remains closed and will remain closed until full containment, and maybe a short while after for assessment,” Sanchez said. According to Inci-Web, “Aggressive patrol and mop-up will continue along Angeles National Forest Highway 2, westerly around Mendenhall Peak, southerly to the Tujunga Canyons following along the fire parameter easterly to Inspiration Point.”

The Station fire is the largest in L.A. County and Angeles National Forest history. Two fire fighters, Capt. Ted Hall and Fire fighter Specialist Arnie Quinones, were killed in the Mt. Gleason area. There were 12 fire fighters injured, 78 residents lost, 86 out buildings and two commercial buildings destroyed and two communication sites were lost, Sanchez said.

Crescenta Valley residents may see smoke from the Mt. Wilson backfire if and when weather permits the operation.

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