Homeowners return

LA CRESCENTA — For the first time in more than four days, there were no worried homeowners standing on street corners and gazing up at a mountainside flames in the morning darkness.

Roads were as devoid of activity Wednesday as the mountains, with the orange flicker of flames gone from the landscape.

The fierce Station fire had moved on, cut off from fuel by crews who lit backfires Tuesday, hacking out dry vegetation to preempt the blaze’s descent into the foothill communities.

The fire was moving east, toward Sierra Madre.

A few joggers and walkers were out braving the still-settling smoke from the fire, falling back into daily routines as residents trickled back into their neighborhoods after being under mandatory evacuation orders.

“I thought the fire people did a fantastic job,” said Chris Craney, who was settling back into his Freeman Avenue home in Briggs Terrace.

Flames were bearing down on the canyon neighborhood Saturday, when Craney opted to follow an evacuation order and leave his home.

The mountains were ablaze on three sides of the neighborhood, although flames were moving slowly, he said.

Still, he had feared for his home, which was surrounded by extremely dry brush that had not burned in more than 30 years. If the fire touched that vegetation, it could have posed a major hazard to the community, he said.

Controlled burns by firefighters were a scary prospect, but Craney was relieved when they proved successful in establishing a wide buffer between the raging wildfire and homes.

“I’m really grateful,” he said.

Residents across the area continued to express thanks to fire officials for their work in protecting foothill homes.

Although the flames did destroy some structures in Tujunga — a total of 62 as of Tuesday evening — residents said they were impressed to see the blaze didn’t do damage in the heavily populated areas of La Crescenta and La Cañada Flintridge.

Restaurants and stores displayed banners thanking firefighters for their efforts.

One sign hanging over the Foothill (210) Freeway read “Thank you heroes!” for the frequent caravans of fire vehicles that snaked up and down the route.

“They were just everywhere and this community was just so proud of them,” said La Crescenta resident Jean Maluccio, who had not evacuated her home because the flames were moving so slowly that her neighborhood felt they were under no immediate threat.

Other residents had chosen not to evacuate as well, including some on Maurice Avenue in one of the most dangerous slivers of the exposed Briggs Terrace community.

The group, which called itself the Maurice Avenue Ember Patrol, had stayed back to keep gardens wet and to protect against floating embers, said Richard Russell, whose home is surrounded by brush at the end of Maurice.

Russell had decided to evacuate and was moving some of his belongings back into his house early Wednesday after four days at his stepmother’s house in Glendale.

Looking at the charred landscape surrounding his home, where dry vegetation had blanketed the hillside, Russell was grateful that his home wasn’t damaged, he said.

“I’ve got a dirty pool and ash on the roof,” he said.

The group of residents who opted to stay behind were also helpful in keeping the neighborhood calm, he said.

Members of the community patrol had helped firefighters attempting to drive up the street, Russell said. Some maps failed to show that Maurice Avenue hits a dead end.

Without that information, fire officials might have wasted precious time attempting to back out of the narrow hillside road, he said.

Lessons from a recent community fire drill had also been useful, Russell said. Additionally, the crawl of the Station fire allowed resident more time to pack and choose what to bring.

The extra time allowed him to get additional clothes and materials that came in handy during the extended evacuation.

“We were blessed to have a slow-motion evacuation,” he said.

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