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Northern front of Station fire flares up

High winds energize the blaze in the Pleasant View Ridge area of the San Gabriel Wilderness.

September 08, 2009|Jason Felch and Rich Connell

AT HANSEN DAM IN LOS ANGELES — Winds and low humidity stoked flames on the northern front of the huge Station fire Monday, while the western flank from La Canada Flintridge to Acton remained quiet.

"I feel very good with the progress made today," U.S. Forest Service incident commander Mike Dietrich said early Monday evening. "I would like to see more. We'll continue tonight and go after it tomorrow."

The 157,200-acre blaze, the largest in the recorded history of Los Angeles County, was 56% contained.

Winds blowing 30 to 40 mph energized the fire in the Pleasant View Ridge area of the San Gabriel Wilderness, north of Mt. Waterman.

Hand crews cut firebreaks and fire commanders sent in air tankers to drop water and retardant on the flare-up.

"We're hoping to hold it within the wilderness area, which isn't a whole lot more, mileage-wise," Forest Service spokesman Nathan Judy said.

Because they had to divert aircraft to the north, firefighters postponed a burnout planned Monday about a mile east of Mt. Wilson.

"We did not have the aircraft in place" to go ahead with the controlled burn, Dietrich said.

Crews are working hot spots above Little Tujunga near the western flank of the fire.

But for the most part the charred horn of the fire area stretching from La Canada Flintridge around the San Gabriel Mountains to the Littlerock area in the high desert was under control.

More than 4,600 firefighters are battling the fire, which officials believe was set by an arsonist Aug. 26. The estimated cost to date is $57.6 million.

Two firefighters died when their truck plunged off a road and into a canyon.

Authorities are treating the probe into the fire's origins as a homicide investigation.

A firefighter who fell while cutting firebreaks Sunday night was airlifted out of the mountains.

The extent of the firefighter's injuries was not immediately available.

"Our crews working that wilderness area are in real steep, rugged terrain," Judy said. "One misstep and you're going down the hillside."

Cooler temperatures and rising humidity this week should aid fire crews, who have had to deal with torrid temperatures and steep terrain.

"This has been a real tough fight," said Michael Bryant, a Los Angeles County deputy fire chief.

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jason.felch@latimes.com

rich.connell@latimes.com

Bettina Boxall contributed to this report.

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