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'Long fiery summer'

With a new fire in Nevada that caused evacuations Monday, the fire season seems relentless.

BY P.J. HELLER | ACTON, CALIFORNIA | July 27, 2004


"Its going to be a long hot summer and a long fiery summer unfortunately."

—Steve Kliest


With a new fire in Nevada that caused evacuations Monday, the fire season seems relentless.

A dozen homes were evacuated when a 1,500-acre blaze grew rapidly in the Mount Charleston area, about 35 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, earlier this week in California, with smoke billowing up behind him from the Crown fire the third large wildfire in a week in the Los Angeles area Steve Kliest pretty much summed up the feelings of his fellow firefighters.

Its going to be a long hot summer and a long fiery summer unfortunately, Kliest said. It takes just the smallest thing for a fire to get going.

Faith-based groups were responding to emergency needs and were also emphasizing long-term needs lingering after last year's devastating wildfires.

At the request of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, The Salvation Army in Southern California deployed an emergency disaster services unit to support efforts of the fire workers battling the Crown Fire near Acton, Calif., north of Los Angeles.

"We are praying for the residents, firefighters and other personnel who have been and are continuing to be affected by these devastating fires," said Lt. Colonel Alfred R. Van Cleef, head of The Salvation Army's work in southern California.

The Foothill fire, second of the three fires, was caused when a red-tailed hawk flew into power lines and its burning body fell into the brush, igniting a 6,050-acre blaze in the Santa Clarita area.

With that fire expected to be fully contained by Wednesday night, firefighting resources were shifted to the Crown fire, about 15 miles away. The cause of that blaze, which prompted a mandatory evacuation order in the high desert community, was under investigation.

The Crown fire had charred more than 8,000 acres by late Wednesday. Containment during the day ranged from zero percent to 30 percent; firefighters were hoping to drive the blaze toward the Little Rock Reservoir which would serve as a barrier, and to keep the south flank of the blaze from spreading into the Angeles National Forest.

Three outbuildings were destroyed, including a mobile home that was used for storage, Kliest reported. No injuries were reported.

A total of 2,300 firefighters were in the region, mopping up the Foothill fire and battling the Crown blaze, where temperatures Wednesday ranged from the mid-90s into the low 100s.

Its dry. Its hot. Its windy, Kliest noted.

He said another concern was power lines that were stressed from the fire. Numerous lines were already down but were already being repaired Wednesday.

The fire was burning through dry brush and timber in a sparsely populated area of homes and small ranches. It was being fought by firefighters on the ground and from the air by four fixed-wing aircraft and 15 helicopters.

Firefighters had earlier been fighting the Pine fire, about an hour away near Lake Hughes. That fire, which may have been caused by arson, burned more than 17,000 acres and destroyed three homes and a dozen outbuildings.

Its unfortunate to have a lot of fires, but its very fortunate to have them close enough (so personnel were readily available), Kliest said.

He said officials Tuesday were on the verge of releasing firefighters back to their stations throughout California when the Crown fire erupted. Firefighters were reassigned to the new fire with additional personnel being called in.

The Salvation Army, with volunteers from the Pasadena area, set up a mobile canteen. Director Garvel W. Wike said it would likely remain in operation until Friday, or longer if officials requested it. The College of the Canyons was sending over meals for the fire crews.

At this point, a lot of people have been suffering but the firemen have been doing their job, Wike said. We dont know what else we can do to make it easier for them.

The American Red Cross set up a shelter in nearby Palmdale but had only a handful of residents spend the night.

Most, like Dwight Rowe and his family, bunked down at local motels or with friends or relatives. Rowe credited firefighters with saving his house from the blaze.

The fire was approaching our house, Rowe said. I think they (firefighters) did one hell of a good job.

Kliest said winds initially helped firefighters.

If the fire had been driven by the wind in a different direction, it would have been a much much different story, he said, referring to more populated areas.

With police limiting access into the fire area, residents who evacuated werent sure of the status of their homes.

Among them was Kathy Alvarez, who lives in Acton and has a house under construction in the fire zone. She said she was supposed to have a load of construction materials delivered to the building site.

Ill have to put them off until next week, she said.


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Neighborhoods face fire rebuilding

Impact of CA fires may be long-term

Survivors struggle, help others


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