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In La Crescenta: Life Under the Looming Threat of the Station Fire

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La Crescenta is an unincorporated part of Los Angeles County, though some parts are considered Glendale, and is often co-mingled in reference with neighboring communities like La Cañada-Flintridge and Montrose. The foothill community has risen to the collective local and national attention since last week when it became one of the initial areas immediately affected by the Station Fire.

Today, the Station Fire has scorched over 100,000 acres, including the hills above the Crescenta Valley, and remains an active threat to pockets of homes in areas like Briggs Terrace and Goss Canyon, which are perched up at the top of Briggs Avenue. Mandatory evacuations remain in place for that neighborhood, and since Saturday an evacuation center has been set up at Crescenta Valley High School, which continues to provide shelter, food, water, and assistance under the supervision of the American Red Cross, to those in need.

This afternoon I paid a visit to La Crescenta, and the evacuation center at CVHS, which was a bittersweet experience; the typically sleepy area that many Angelenos have never heard of happens to be my adopted US hometown, and CVHS happens to be my alma mater.

The Red Cross evacuation center at CVHS right now is hosting about 15-20 evacuees, but they are at the ready to handle more. A Glendale Unified School District official at the center, which is located in the school cafeteria, dubbed the Falcon Cafe after the school mascot, explained that on Saturday night about 45 people checked in for the night, and last night about 143 people were there, though most had been drawn out of their homes erroneously when a batch of reverse 911 calls were issued by mistake by the Sheriff's Department.

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Meanwhile, up at the highest point of Briggs Avenue at Rockdell Street, at the base of the Briggs Terrace neighborhood, neighbors gathered where the authorities have the street cordoned off. Plans to light backfires was the hot topic of conversation among the neighbors, as well as plans to evacuate, and wishes to each other for "good luck" in the ongoing struggle. Amidst the cloaking smoke that seemed to press down with the not-so-gentle push of the 90+ degree heat visible flames occasionally bounced and flickered on the hovering hillsides. Ash drifted steadily down, and people seemed calm, though the unpredictability of the fire means the mood could shift without even a moment's notice.

From the main street, Foothill Blvd, everything is shrouded in smoke. The town is quiet today--though that's not so unusual if you know the area. The first day of school was canceled today, but people seemed to be going about their lives as best as possible, often sporting face masks to help defend against the hazardous air. The hills in La Crescenta haven't burned in around 60 years, but in the face of this emergency, many residents are proving what is often the expectation of the area; working together, being neighborly, and getting through as a community.