Related News

Home » World

Last of LA wildfire evacuees return

FIREFIGHTERS, helped again by favorable weather, made new gains yesterday against the wildfire raging through mountains near Los Angeles as evacuation orders were lifted for the last of those forced to flee earlier.

Having removed the immediate threat to thousands of homes around the outer fringe of the 8-day-old blaze in the San Gabriel Mountains, firefighters turned their focus to two interior fronts at either end of the 20-mile-long (32 km-long) fire zone.

Officials said they were especially determined to keep the southeastern flank of the fire from creeping into heavily populated areas below it in the San Gabriel Valley, including Pasadena.

"That's our No. 1 priority for the next several days," fire commander Mike Dietrich said in an evening update. "That area is requiring a lot of work.

A wave of elevated humidity and light clouds gave firefighters a second day of respite from hot, dry weather.

Improved weather was key in the battle, so far successful, to save Mount Wilson, home to a world-famous observatory and a telecommunications and broadcasting hub for the region.

Additional neighborhoods closed by the fire were reopened as well. Police said that by late Wednesday night, the last few evacuation orders would be lifted.

By Wednesday evening, fire crews had carved containment lines around 28 percent of the blaze. Commanders predict it may take two more weeks to fully enclose the flames.

"We're fighting for every foot of containment," Dietrich said.


While the financial cost of battling the fire swelled to US$21 million, the most of several blazes around California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger shrugged off concerns that state budget problems would short-change firefighters.

"Even though we have a budget crunch and a financial crisis ... we always have the money available to fight fires," he said.

After scorching over 140,000 acres (56,000 hectares), an area roughly the size of Chicago, the so-called Station Fire was poised to become one of the 10 largest wildfires in California history.

Since erupting last Wednesday in the Angeles National Forest about 15 miles (25 km) north of downtown Los Angeles, the blaze has destroyed at least 64 homes, killed two firefighters and injured several others.

Three people who ignored evacuation orders also were injured.

While US Forest Service officials maintained that nothing has been ruled out in the fire investigation, Dietrich said earlier that said human activity, accidental or deliberate, was presumed to be the cause. That is the case with the overwhelming majority of Southern California wildfires.

With the Station Fire and several other blazes flaring up across California in recent weeks, the state already has more than half depleted its emergency firefighting budget.

But Schwarzenegger said California, which boasts the world's eighth-largest economy, can still tap a US$500 million reserve fund created primarily through cuts in social services.

Moreover, state and local agencies stand to recover 75 percent of California's wild-land firefighting costs this year from a federal grant already approved, officials said.

Some 4,700 firefighters have been assembled to battle the Station Fire, many from distant parts of California and elsewhere across the Western United States.

One of their biggest single victories so far has been the pitched battle at Mount Wilson.

Days after predicting the 5,700-foot (1,740-meter) summit was virtually doomed to be engulfed in a firestorm, officials said Wednesday they hoped the site would largely be spared.

Muffled fire activity attributed to higher moisture levels in the air gave fire crews time to launch a renewed, all-out campaign to clear dense brush around the mountain and to treat the slopes with heavy doses of fire retardant. Fire crews also were standing by to douse buildings and other structures with special foam if flames approach.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend