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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

“If you live in the hills and you understand that we can get a fire any day, a day like today, which is 90 degrees, and some gardener has a spark in his weed whacker or whatever, something can come up real quickly,” said Spence. “I think that the people that live in this area are very cognizant of the issues and the problems that can occur.”

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino said that the community hasn’t forgotten the fire.

“I think it’s going to be present in folks’ minds for a long time. It was a traumatic, devastating situation.”

Portantino, who authored a bill to give tax breaks to residents rebuilding their homes after the fire, said the resiliency of the community has helped it bounce back from the disaster.

“How well everyone did is a testament to those individuals who live in the district and the individual law enforcement and firefighters who worked so hard to protect homes,” said Portantino.

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Still, Spence said that the large concrete barriers, known as K-rails, that populate the northern part of La Cañada Flintridge remain an ugly reminder of the Station fire’s devastation. They were put in place to prevent mudslide damage during heavy rainfall on the denuded mountains behind the city.

“It reminds everybody that there was a pretty serious disaster; and that in turn is transferred into a bad situation for real estate,” said Spence. “The market and the value of the homes has been falsely suppressed because of the Station fire situation.”

Ready for the next one

Two years later, the question remains: Are local public agencies prepared to handle another Station fire?

Spence praised the work done by the L.A. County Fire Department to fight the fire, but said that the miscommunications and lack of effective early response by the National Forest Service were problems that needed to be remedied.

Spence said he hopes the Angeles National Forest’s new supervisor, Thomas Contreras, will heed lessons from the Station fire.

“Hopefully we’ll have some fresh ideas and some people with some intellectual skills that will understand the seriousness of calling the finest fire department in the world, which is the L.A. County Fire Department,” said Spence.

Congressman Adam Schiff has led a charge for answers from the Forest Service as to whether acquiring the ability to fly at night could prevent another disaster.

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