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Fire risk remains high in Angeles National Forest

While Williams fire burns, local firefighters beef up forces.

September 05, 2012|By Daniel Siegal, daniel.siegal@latimes.com
  • A DC-10 flies through a smoky valley and dumps a load of fire retardant on the Williams fire.
A DC-10 flies through a smoky valley and dumps a load of… (Don Bartletti /…)

The flora being torched by the Williams fire above Glendora is in very different shape than that above La Cañada Flintridge, making a similar blaze in this area unlikely, according to Angeles National Forest officials.

Angeles National Forest Acting Resource Officer Justin Seastrand said Wednesday that the thick chaparral and brush fueling the Williams fire was largely cleared out of the La Cañada area by the 2009 Station fire.

“There is enough vegetation [near La Cañada] that a fire could burn through there,” Seastrand said. “But it would be a much less intense fire.... It would be much easier to suppress and contain.”

The area around Camp Williams hasn’t burned for 15 years, according to Angeles National Forest spokeswoman Sherry Rollman, and has grown significant amounts of brush that became quick fuel for the current conflagration.

As of Wednesday night, firefighters estimated that the Williams fire had burned about 4,000 acres.

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In La Cañada Flintridge, firefighters are still beefing up their preparations for the peak of fire season, which lasts through November, according to Capt. Brian Kane of Los Angeles County Fire Station 82 on Foothill Boulevard.

Kane said the department plans its staffing each day based on the data provided by the National Weather Service, which on Wednesday indicated that the risk of fire near La Cañada Flintridge is very high.

L.A. County Assistant Fire Chief Bill Niccum said that when fuel moisture in the area drops to critical levels, the department adds a fourth firefighter on fire trucks, staffs additional water tenders and adds patrol personnel.

The department has also leased “Super Scooper” firefighting aircraft from Quebec for the next four months, and has a contract helicopter tanker that holds 2,000 gallons of water available for quick response to wildfires, according to Niccum.

Niccum said residents should prepare for fire season by reading the department’s “Ready! Set! Go!” wildfire preparedness plan, available at http://fire.lacounty.gov.

Also important is ensuring that homes on the edge of wild lands are surrounded by so-called “defensible space” cleared of heavy brush. If a wildfire does break out, Niccum said that embers can enter a home through attic vents and under garage doors, so making sure those areas are screened or properly fitted is essential.

“The philosophy is we do everything possible to keep our fires small,” Niccum said.

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