Brush fire threatens La Cañada home

A La Cañada Flintridge resident, who spent months warning officials about overgrown vegetation saw his worst fears realized Tuesday when a brush fire, believed to have been ignited by a weed whacker, charred a half-acre of hillside and threatened his home before being extinguished.

Neal Peterson, of 400 Gleneagles Place, had been urging Pasadena Water and Power since May to clear brush from the hillsides in Hahamongna Watershed Park surrounding his property. The utility owns the parcel.

Work began Monday after delays brought on by budgetary constraints and had been expected to be completed by the end of the week, said Shan Kwan, an assistant general manager at the utility.

But shortly before noon Tuesday, a fire started in the dry brush as contractors with Mariposa Landscapes worked to clear the land with gas-powered weed whackers.

Peterson and his wife Marianne were inside when they noticed the smoke billowing up from the hillside.

"All of a sudden, my wife comes running and says, 'Something is burning, I smelled something,'" Peterson said. "I could see the smoke start to pillar up above. I came in and called 911. Then, all of a sudden it really started to expand."

Marianne Peterson grabbed the family dog and headed down the street, while Neal Peterson handed a high pressure garden hose to the landscapers, who began spraying the flames.

About 80 firefighters and two water-dropping helicopters responded to the fire, said Los Angeles County Fire Chief Mike Brown.

They extinguished the fire in under an hour, he added. No injuries were reported,

The fire reached all the way up to Peterson's property line. Flames licked through a chain link fence, scorching a dozen potted plants lined up along the exterior wall of his home.

The neighborhood remains fire-wary after being evacuated during the Station fire last August, said neighbor Janna Koulos, who stood on her front porch watching firefighters attack the blaze.

"I saw smoke coming from the mountain and then I heard the fire department coming through," Koulos said. "It looked like it just started."

After the fire, the Petersons took Pasadena Water and Power to task for allowing the brush to get fire-ready to begin with.

"This is a situation that should have never existed," Neal Peterson said. "If they had done their job, this wouldn't have happened."

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