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Fire Weather: Two LA County Firefighters Killed – UPDATED

August 31st, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

mt-wilson-towercam1

UPDATE: 5:15 P.M. The word is now, according to LASD’s Steve Whitmore,
that those five people in Gold Canyon who needed rescue, don’t need to be rescued after all. According to Whitmore one of the group’s members has been calling local radio stations and news outlets saying that they’re fine. That they never needed rescuing.

Oh-kay.

Whitmore says that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department had been notified of the trapped five by one of the rescuees directly by phone. Whatever the case, it hardly needs to be said that the sheriff’s are feeling a little irritable that they nearly put men and women in harms way to rescue people who…..

Oh, never mind. I guess all is well, that ends well.

May everyone stay safe.

Time lapse photography of the Station Fire by Brandon Riza, posted this morning, taken Saturday. As horrible as this fire is, the photos are almost balletic.


2 p.m. – So far the flames have been far too intense to rescue
the five people trapped in Gold Canyon, north of Lakeview Terrace. Sheriff’s spokesperson, Steve Whitmore is sounding more and more vexed by this situation with each successive news release on the rescue attempts.

His vexation is with good cause. Evacuation order for the area were issued two days ago.

Meanwhile, TV stations and other news outlets, are making plans for back-ups and work-arounds
in case Mt. Wilson goes down.

For instance, KNBC, Channel 4, has arranged to broadcast via its sister station, Telemundo, whose transmitters are not on Mt. Wilson, but on Mt. Harvard, which is also threatened, but not with the same immediacy.

If Mr. Harvard goes down, I have been told that KNBC’s Digital Channel 4.2 is being eyed as a back-up.

If some of the local NPR stations go down, they can, of course be accessed via your handy iPhone if you load the NPR Ap.



12:15 p.m.: A group of people are trapped by the Station fire
in an area north of Lakeview Terrace and near to Little Tujunga Road. The area was thought to have been previously evacuated. Now sheriff’s deputies are attempting a rescue—at great danger to themselves, as the area is overgrown with chaparral.

NOTE: This is, by the way, why when the sheriffs or cops tell you that evacuation is mandatory, you need to pack up the kids, the photos, the hard drives and the animals….and freaking leave.

NOTE 2: Last night, National Forest officials and LACFD were estimating that the Station fire would be contained by Sept. 8. Now they’re saying Sept. 15. (!!!)

KTLA’s Eric Spillman took a drive up to Wilson and came back with photos and reports.


10:20 a.m.

Firefighters have set back fires and have, for the moment, slowed the fires aimed at the top of Mt. Wilson. But not enough. Leaving teams on the mountain has been deemed too risky, and they have been pulled away from the observatory while the access road is still open.

We understand. We want no more dead firefighters.

Sky and Telescope magazine has this report on the fire threat to Mt. Wilson. Although, matters are changing so quickly, that much of its info is out of date by morning. It nonetheless has lots of details about the observatory and the communications equipment at risk. Plus, the time lapse photos are cool.

UPDATE: 9 a.m. – the Station Fire is approximately 1/4 mile from the Mt. Wilson observatory.

The fire has doubled in size-–from 43,000 acres at midnight last night, to 85,000 this morning.



When there is a big fire in Los Angeles County,
it hangs over the rest of LA life as a specter formed of flame and ashes.

The shadow thrown by the so-called Station fire, which has now burned nearly 45,000 acres, grew measurably darker when the city learned the terrible nws that, on Sunday,
two LA County fire fighters had been killed fighting the fire. According to the visibly choked up County Deputy Fire Chief Mike Bryant, the fire fighters died when the fire overran them and their vehicle rolled on the side of Mt. near to Acton. Although 2575 people from various states are now fighting the Station fire, the two killed were local— from the LA County FD.

The two killed were Fire Captain Tedmund “Ted” Hall and Firefighter Specialist Arnaldo “Arnie” Quinones. Captain Hall was 47 and had been with the LACFD for 26 years.

Arnie Quinones was 35 and had been with the department 8 years.

Then at 10:30 Sunday night, it was announced that the fire was less than a mile from the observatory at the top of Mt. Wilson, which is the home to many of LA’s TV and FM transmitters, as well as some of those of law enforcement. It is expected to reach the peak during the night, or early Monday morning, reported the Pasadena Star-News.

“It’s not a matter of if (flames reach the top),” said Forest Service Capt. Mike Dietrich, “it’s a matter of when.”

Dietrich said the communications equipment there are “truly in jeopardy.”

(The LA Times has a report listing all that would be affected if the observatory got hit hard.)

The Wilson website reported the following at 8 p.m. Sunday night:

A critical aspect to the survivability of the Observatory should the fire sweep across it is whether or not fire fighters will be on site during such an event. The U.S. Forest Service continually assesses the danger to fire fighters in any scenario and will withdraw fire crews in situations that are particularly precarious. Such an evaluation took place on Mount Wilson in the last half hour with the decision for the fire crews to remain in place tonight. That’s very good news.

Indeed, there are 25 firefighters at the top of Mt. Wilson who will stay “no matter what,” according to a US Forest Service spokesman.

ON A PRACTICAL NOTE: Those Needing information about the most recent evacuation orders, should dial 211.

PRACTICAL NOTE 2: The Pasadena Human Society is overrun with animals rescued from the fire and needs people who can bring in carrying crates and/or are will to be foster families for some of the overflow rescued critters.

FOLLOW THE MT. WILSON CAM here.

Back later in the morning with more news.

Posted in Fire, Natural Disasters | 5 Comments »

5 Responses

  1. Evan Says:

    The scary thing is that we haven’t even had any Santa Ana winds. Just imagine how bad it could be if that was part of the equation.

  2. Mavis Beacon Says:

    Very sad news. Hopefully they get the blaze under control soon.

  3. Woody Says:

    What excuses will the left have for not stopping next year’s fires, and the fires after that, and after that? Yeah, act sad about fire deaths but continue to pile up obstacles to forest professionals.

  4. Celeste Fremon Says:

    No kidding, Evan.

    Woody, I am sticking my fingers in my ears and humming. It’s the most civil thing I can do.

    (Although the cat thinks it very, very odd.)

  5. jb Says:

    If Woody’s head were to explode because of all the hyperpartisan confabulations he has stuffed into it, any regrets would be feigned.

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