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Station fire's effects still smolder

Community called `more ready than ever,' should another disaster strike.

August 25, 2011|By Daniel Siegal, daniel.siegal@latimes.com
  • Poppies cover a ridge along Mt. Lukens Road in May 2010. The area had burned in the August 2009 Station fire and is naturally regenerating. (Photo courtesy of Mike Caley)
Poppies cover a ridge along Mt. Lukens Road in May 2010.…

Two years to the day after an arsonist started what would become the 10th largest wildfire in modern California history, life has returned to normal in La Cañada Flintridge, but scars of the disaster remain.

While the Station fire's perpetrator remains at large, the community has moved from rebuilding homes to rebuilding real estate values. But even then, loose ends remain.

Local fire officials say a more unified command and communications system is in place to better coordinate firefighting efforts. But Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) contends not enough progress has been made on policies for night time flights for water-dropping aircraft — a key technique that he said could have prevented the Station fire from turning into a large-scale disaster.

Investigation

The Station fire, which started on Aug. 26, 2009, consumed 160,557 acres, destroyed 209 structures and claimed the lives of two firefighters. As a result of the deaths, when evidence of arson was discovered, the case was assigned to the L.A. County Sheriff's Department Homicide Division. Two years later, detectives are no closer to arresting a suspect.

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Sheriff's Det. Mike Valento, who has worked the case for the last two years, said that while the 146 leads the department already has cleared have yet to turn up a suspect, it's far from a hopeless case.

“It's by no means considered a cold case, nothing like that. It's too early, even though it's been two years,” Valento said.

The investigation, he added, will remain active “until all the leads stop coming in over a good period of time — and that's just not the case yet.”

With a $150,000 reward going unclaimed, it was likely the crime had been committed by an individual working alone, Valento said.

“In all the other cases I've worked, a lot of the times the individual's committed the crime with at least a second person and eventually that [second] person talks,” he said. “Nothing's been leaked out, nothing good, despite that award.”

The Impact

La Cañada Flintridge Mayor David Spence said this week that the Station fire was a reminder to the community of the dangers posed by the environment.

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