Wildfire flares up; crews change plans

Associated Press / September 8, 2009

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LOS ANGELES - Just as firefighters were intensifying their efforts yesterday to contain the flames menacing the foothill neighborhoods of the San Gabriel Valley, another part of the deadly fire in the Angeles National Forest flared up.

Fire officials canceled plans to burn out brush and create a buffer south of the ferocious fire to protect communities from Azusa to Pasadena.

Incident Commander Mike Dietrich said at a news conference last night that the weather - including 30-to-40-mile-per-hour winds and 10 percent humidity - did not cooperate, and the aircraft needed to support and monitor the burnout operations were diverted to the fire’s northeastern flank.

The blaze was 56 percent contained and had blackened 157,220 acres, or 246 square miles, as it burned deeper into the wilderness in its 13th day, feeding off leaf litter on the ground, old growth, and dead timber.

“Even the mountain goats won’t climb in there because it’s so steep and rugged,’’ US Forest Service spokesman Nathan Judy said.

The flames have reached the bottom of the south face of Mount Waterman, which has a small ski area on its northern side.

The cost of the fire fight has climbed to $57.6 million, Dietrich said.

Meanwhile, LA County sheriff’s and fire investigators continued their homicide investigation into the fire. Officials have said the cause of the fire was arson but have released no findings.

Los Angeles County firefighters Tedmund Hall and Arnaldo Quinones were killed in a vehicle accident Aug. 30 while seeking an escape route for their inmate fire crew after flames overran their camp on Mount Gleason.

Fire spokesman David Ortiz said the total of firefighters injured is now up to 11.