Partly Cloudy83° WeatherPartly Cloudy83° Weather

Thousands near L.A. flee fires

Spc. Arnie Quinones, 35, left, and fire Capt. Ted Hall, 47, were killed Sunday, when their truck rolled down a hill amid flames from a wildfire. Above, the charred remains of the truck sit at the bottom of a hill Monday on Mount Gleason in the Angeles National Forest near Acton, Calif. The out-of-control Station Fire has burned more than 85,000 acres and forced thousands of evacuations.

Getty Images

Spc. Arnie Quinones, 35, left, and fire Capt. Ted Hall, 47, were killed Sunday, when their truck rolled down a hill amid flames from a wildfire. Above, the charred remains of the truck sit at the bottom of a hill Monday on Mount Gleason in the Angeles National Forest near Acton, Calif. The out-of-control Station Fire has burned more than 85,000 acres and forced thousands of evacuations.

LOS ANGELES — A deadly wildfire destroyed more than four dozen homes as it blackened a wide swath of tinder-dry Southern California forest, forced thousands of residents to flee and burned dangerously close Monday to a vital mountaintop broadcasting complex.

Fire crews battling the blaze in the Angeles National Forest tried desperately to beat back the flames and prayed for weather conditions to ease. The fire was the largest of at least nine burning across California after days of triple-digit temperatures and low humidity.

Columns of smoke billowed high into the air before dispersing into a gauzy white haze that burned eyes and prompted warnings of unhealthy air throughout the Los Angeles area.

"It's burning everywhere," U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Dianne Cahir said. "When it gets into canyons that haven't burned in numerous years, it takes off. If you have any insight into the good Lord upstairs, put in a request."

The exact number of people injured or threatened by the fire was still not clear. Over the weekend, three people who refused to evacuate were burned when they were overrun by flames, authorities said.

Authorities revised an earlier report that five people were trapped in a canyon near Gold Creek. They later said five men and one woman refused several orders to evacuate the remote ranch. "When we tried to get them out, they said they're fine," said fire spokesman Larry Marinas.

Fire crews set 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 observatory also houses two giant telescopes and several multimillion-dollar university programs. It is both a landmark for its historic discoveries and a thriving modern center for astronomy.

If the flames hit the mountain, cell phone service and TV and radio transmissions would be disrupted.

The blaze killed two firefighters who died when their truck drove off the side of a road with flames all around them. The victims were Capt. Tedmund Hall, 47, of San Bernardino County, and Spc. Arnaldo "Arnie" Quinones, 35, of Palmdale.

The blaze in the Los Angeles foothills is the biggest but not most destructive of California's wildfires. Northeast of Sacramento, a wind-driven fire destroyed 60 structures over the weekend, many of them homes in the town of Auburn.

FAST FACTS

Other fires in West

Arizona: Fire crews were working to corral a blaze that has forced the evacuation of about 500 homes in two subdivisions nestled in the forest north of Payson, which is about 90 miles northeast of Phoenix.

Colorado: Crews fighting a nearly 2-square-mile wildfire in western Colorado are also putting out 17 smaller fires sparked by lightning.

Oregon: Firefighters were mopping up the nearly 2-square-mile Microwave fire that threatened Mosier over the weekend.

Utah: Residents of New Harmony in southern Utah began returning to their homes after authorities lifted an evacuation advisory driven by a wildfire flare-up.

Washington: Firefighters expect the blaze that destroyed a large hay warehouse in Moses Lake to smolder for days.

Associated Press

Fast Facts

Other fires in the West

Arizona: Fire crews were working to corral a blaze that has forced the evacuation of about 500 homes in two subdivisions nestled in the forest north of Payson, which is about 90 miles northeast of Phoenix.

Colorado: Crews fighting a nearly 2-square-mile wildfire in western Colorado are also putting out 17 smaller fires sparked by lightning.

Oregon: Firefighters were mopping up the nearly 2-square-mile Microwave fire that threatened Mosier over the weekend.

Utah: Residents of New Harmony in southern Utah began returning to their homes after authorities lifted an evacuation advisory driven by a wildfire flareup.

Washington: Firefighters expect the blaze that destroyed a large hay warehouse in Moses Lake to smolder for days.

Associated Press

Thousands near L.A. flee fires 09/01/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 12:15am]

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...