Help is on the Way

Firefighters have contained over 60 percent of the massive wildfire that has been raging throughout northern Los Angeles since Aug. 26. According to fire officials, the blaze is currently covering about 157,200 acres. Weather forecasts are predicting a temperature drop and rise in humidity this week, which should aid fire crews in their battle.  

Firefighters are focusing their efforts on the eastern edge of the fire where it rages in the San Gabriel Wilderness. The fire also jumped north over the firebreak on Angeles Crest and is moving towards Littlerock and Juniper.

The fire has blackened over 240 square miles, making it not only the largest fire in the history of Los Angeles County, but also number 10 on the list of largest fires in California's modern history. To put that into perspective, it could have burned down the entire city of Santa Monica 15 times.
It has killed two firefighters, destroyed 76 homes, and has cost fire agencies $43.5 million dollars thus far. There are over 4,800 personnel still battling this fire and working to protect the 5,000 structures that remain in harm's way. Though there has been continual progress and firefighters remain in good morale, the cause and effects of this deadly fire are devastating.

News of evidence of arson broke on Friday afternoon. Forensic examination of the incendiary material has since then confirmed that the Station Fire was indeed the result of arson. Though the substance has not yet been identified due to the ongoing investigation, it has been revealed that the substance in question was found near the brush off Angeles Crest near Mile Marker 29, approximately where the fire is thought to have originated. The deaths of the two firefighters are now being considered homicide and an investigation has been opened.

Captain Tedmund Hall, 47, of San Bernardino County, and firefighter Specialist Arnaldo Quinones, 35, of Palmdale, were killed when their truck plummeted down the side of a mountain on the northwestern front of the fire. The White House issued a statement that said, "The President and First Lady send their deepest condolences to the friends and families of these two lost heroes." The memorial service for Hall and Quinones will be on Sept. 12.

Though the fire is approximately 40 miles away from the SMC campus, many students are deeply concerned and affected by this tragedy.

"The firefighters are making valiant efforts, I'm so proud of our firefighting system," 21-year-old sociology major BJ Ly said. "I don't know anyone east of downtown but I'm very happy that me and my friends are safe."

Those that do live east of downtown and other distant areas have had to deal with freeway closures and an increase in traffic. This must be especially frustrating for SMC commuters trying to do well during their first week of school.

"I've been late to almost all of my classes because the freeway closures are forcing people to take surface streets. Now even Pico is a traffic jam," said photography major Gabriella Giorgio, 18. "And since I ride my bike everywhere, not only have I had to deal with more cars on the road but also more angry drivers."

Others are not only affected while commuting but in their homes as well. "There's ash on my house, patio, car... even my dogs are covered in ash," said Daniella Mims, a 23-year-old business major.

The fire and ash fall has had a large effect on the air quality in Los Angeles County. Though according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District's website, Santa Monica's air quality is moderate. This level is just under good, on their scale, but it is still a good idea to take caution. The AQMD advises that everyone avoid indoor and outdoor exertion, keep windows and doors closed and run air conditioning when possible. Though the air quality of Santa Monica has only been slightly affected, some have noticed the difference. 

"I have asthma so it has required me to use inhalers more frequently," said George Benson, 55, art history major.

If you have respiratory issues or heart disease, the AQMD also advises that you be extra cautious. If you feel light headed or dizzy while on campus, do not hesitate to ask for help or seek medical assistance.

Though the fire does not affect many students at SMC, the volume of the fire and the structures that have been destroyed and almost destroyed have caused them to take notice. Firefighters managed to save the historic Mount Wilson, however, the famous Angeles Crest Highway will be closed indefinitely.

Another notable loss was the Charles Toberman Estate in Runyon Canyon, or what is better known as the home of Vince Chase during the first two seasons of HBO's "Entourage." When 23-year-old broadcast major Sam White was informed of this loss, he became outraged.

"One of my lifelong goals was to move into that house," said White, "that angers me. I can't even believe that. I hope we catch whoever did this and he goes to jail. The arson is what really bothers me. Who would want to burn down someone's house? What if that was your house?"

Others are less moved by fire damages than they are by the visual impact it has made. Mushroom cloud formations were visible from the SMC campus last week and the sky was hazy and reddish at times.

"Thanks to this awful fire, the sky has had this apocalyptic look to it for the past week or so," said 19-year-old communications major Austin Weinhart. "But I suppose the end of the world isn't suppose to happen for another couple years."

It is doubtful this fire is any sign of the end of the world as, according to officials, a full containment date has been set for Sept. 15.