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Station fire's effects still smolder

Community called 'more ready than ever,' should another disaster strike.

August 24, 2011|By Daniel Siegal, daniel.siegal@latimes.com

Almost two years to the day after an unknown arsonist started what would become the 10th largest wildfire in modern California history, life has returned to normal in La Cañada Flintridge, but scars of the disaster remain.

While the Station fire’s perpetrator remains at large, the community has moved from rebuilding homes to rebuilding real estate values. As anxious hikers wait for beloved trails to reopen, the Los Angeles County Fire Department and U.S. Forest Service have come together with a new plan for coordination between the two agencies so that when the next wildfire breaks out, they’ll be prepared to prevent it from turning into another full-fledged disaster.

Investigation

The Station fire, which started on the afternoon of Aug. 26, 2009, eventually consumed 160,557 acres of land, destroyed 209 structures and claimed the lives of two firefighters. As a result of the deaths, when evidence of arson was discovered, the case was assigned to the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Division. Two years later, detectives are no closer to arresting a suspect.

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Sheriff’s Det. Mike Valento has worked the case for the last two years.

Valento said that while the 146 leads the department already has cleared have yet to turn up a suspect, it’s far from a hopeless case.

“It’s by no means considered a cold case, nothing like that. It’s too early, even though it’s been two years,” said Valento.

Valento said that the investigation will remain active, “Until all the leads stop coming in over a good period of time — and that’s just not the case yet.”

Valento said that with a $150,000 reward going unclaimed, it was likely the crime had been committed by an individual working alone.

“In all the other cases I’ve worked, a lot of the times the individual’s committed the crime with at least a second person and eventually that [second] person talks,” said Valento. “Nothing’s been leaked out, nothing good, despite that award.

“I wish I could tell you something looks promising, but that’s not the case so far,” Valento said.

La Cañada Flintridge impact

La Cañada Flintridge Mayor David Spence said this week that the Station fire was a reminder to the community of the dangers posed by the environment.

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