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LEONA VALLEY ABLAZE FIRE BURNS HOMES IN CANYONS.

Byline: Greg Botonis and Charles F. Bostwick Staff Writers

LEONA VALLEY - A fast-moving brush fire swept across hundreds of acres along Bouquet Canyon on Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of scores of homes and burning several.

Fueled by explosively dry brush and high temperatures, towering flames raced toward the ranch-style homes that line the narrow, wooded canyon, then climbed a ridge to threaten the community of Leona Valley.

``I've never seen anything like it,'' said Tamara Holden, a Santa Clarita resident who helped a friend evacuate a Bouquet Canyon Road home. ``We were OK at first and then it was just there. We shoved everything we could in the car and got the hell out of there.''

With temperatures around 100 degrees, one firefighter was overcome with heat and collapsed, officials said. A woman hosing down her unfinished, uninsured house fell and broke her leg, residents said.

Several homes and other buildings had burned by early evening as a wall of flames stretched from south of the town of Leona Valley to the slopes of Mount McDill on the other side of Bouquet Canyon.

Two SuperScooper planes, which just arrived Sunday from Canada, were sent into action for the first time this year. Firefighters used them to drop water around threatened homes.

Reported about 1:20 p.m., the fire had blackened about 30 acres within 20 minutes and 500 acres in two hours. By 3 p.m. firefighters were asking for voluntary evacuations all the way to Elizabeth Lake Road and Godde Hill Road. Bouquet Canyon Road was closed to traffic north of Saugus.

By 4:30 p.m., the fire had engulfed more than 600 acres with an estimated 600 firefighters on the line, with more on the way.

The fast-moving flames almost trapped California Highway Patrol Capt. Brian Smith and Officer Rusty Moore at a Bouquet Canyon Road home. The officers went to the home because the woman who lives there had no car, and all three got out just before the flames arrived.

The house burned.

``We do this all the time and I've never been that close,'' Smith said.

Sheriff's deputies loaded 50 miniature dachshunds, mostly puppies, into three patrol cars and a sheriff's SUV in order to get a Bouquet Canyon kennel operator to leave her threatened home.

``The deputies saw I wouldn't leave without them,'' said Connie Brown, a resident since 1979. Flames were on both sides of her home and 200 feet away when they pulled out, she said.

When neighbors couldn't get through the roadblocks to rescue their two horses, Loraine DeRosier and her daughter, Tiffany, tied the horses to the back of their pickup truck and drove slowly up Bouquet Canyon Road out of the danger zone.

``It's like family here. We all take care of each other,'' said DeRosier, who grew up in Leona Valley, as she stood with other residents watching the flames from Elizabeth Lake Road a mile away.

The blaze was the second in the same stretch of Bouquet Canyon in eight days, and the third to frighten Leona Valley residents since June. The June blaze was halted near Green Valley after burning more than 23,000 acres. The Aug. 25 fire blackened 120 acres but was stoped before it destroyed any homes.

Fire roads have been allowed to grow over with brush, making it harder for firefighters to reach the flames, residents complained.

Six two-person teams of animal-control officers were sent in to evacuate horses and other animals.

Authorities set up a command post at Leona Valley School and an evacuation center at Highland High School in Palmdale. Helicopters landed in the schoolyard to take on water from tanker trucks.

CAPTION(S):

6 photos

Photo:

(1 -- 2 -- color -- ran in SAC edition only) Flames engulf a structure, above, along Bouquet Canyon where Tuesday's blaze burned more than 600 acres. Engine Co. 37 brought horses into the safety of a coral out of harm's way despite not being able to save the ranch structures. An estimated 600 firefighters were on the line fighting the blaze late Tuesday, with more on the way.

David R. Crane/Staff Photographer

(3 -- color -- ran in AV edition only) Brothers, from left, Skyler and Austin Sutton evacuate donkeys from their property Tuesday as flames from the Bouquet Canyon blaze loom nearby.

(4 -- color -- ran in AV edition only) Flames from the Bouquet Canyon fire head toward horses and a house in the 39700 block of Bouquet Canyon Road.

(5 -- ran in AV edition only) One of an estimated 600 firefighters pauses during Tuesday's intense fire in Bouquet Canyon.

(6 -- ran in AV edition only) Bree Thompson, left, and Shelly Duan lead their horses out of the path of the Bouquet Canyon fire on Tuesday.

Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 4, 2002
Words:796
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