August 29, 2009 in Nation/World

Los Angeles blanketed by smoke

Four fires raging on three sides of city
Los Angeles Times
 
Associated Press photo

A helicopter makes a water drop as firefighters battle the Station fire in the Angeles National Forest on Friday.
(Full-size photo)

LOS ANGELES – Scorching temperatures continued to stoke wildfires across Southern California on Friday, creating anxious moments in the mountains north and east of downtown Los Angeles where thousands of residents fled flames that skipped through canyons, edging toward one neighborhood after another.

More than 2,700 firefighters and a small air force of water-dumping planes and helicopters managed to stop the blazes before they swept into hillside housing tracts. But smoky air from the fires continued to create unhealthful conditions in parts of the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys, disrupting schools, horseback riding programs and day camps near the fire areas.

And the situation remained precarious late Friday in several areas, notably the La Cañada Flintridge foothills where more than 1,500 acres had burned.

“It’s going to be extremely dynamic tonight and tomorrow,” said David Conklin, Angeles National Forest fire management officer. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”

Called the Station fire, it was the most dangerous of four blazes still burning Friday from the San Bernardino National Forest east of Los Angeles to the Palos Verdes Peninsula, a coastal area south of downtown Los Angeles. Relatively calm winds greatly aided firefighters, but triple-digit temperatures were expected to last through Sunday.

The Station fire jumped fire lines and the Angeles Crest Highway in the mountains above Los Angeles on Friday morning. Mandatory evacuations were ordered for nearly 900 homes, and more than 600 were threatened Friday afternoon.

Down-canyon winds first pushed the fire toward La Cañada Flintridge. But daytime winds shifted up the canyons, spreading the fire out toward the east and west.

“We want to keep it from getting established on the slopes above Altadena and below Mount Wilson. There are a lot of National Forest campgrounds in there,” said Stanton Florea, fire information officer for the U.S. Forest Service.

In all, nearly 5,000 acres had burned in the four major fires by Friday evening.

•An air assault through the night helped bring the Palos Verdes Peninsula fire under 70 percent containment Friday. Expensive homes in the cities of Rolling Hills and Rancho Palos Verdes had been threatened, with flames lapping at the eaves of some residences.

•In steep terrain above Hemet, about 50 miles east of Los Angeles, a San Bernardino National Forest wildfire was just 5 percent contained but was not posing an immediate threat to structures.

•The Morris fire, which started five miles north of Azusa near San Gabriel Canyon Road, blackened about 2,000 acres and was 60 percent contained, officials said. The fire was burning in mostly open mountain country.

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