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Fire Alarmist

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Los Angeles Times's staffer David Pierson reports that county officials closed 80% of the Angeles National Forest on Sunday, forcing canyon residents to evacuate:

"It's [the evacuation] a predicament dozens, maybe hundreds, of residents living full- or part-time in the remote mountain areas found themselves in after officials announced Friday that 80% of the 680,000-acre forest would be closed today [Sunday] at midnight.

Residents say they need more time and would prefer to stay to protect their property. But forest officials say they have been raising fire warnings for months and cabin dwellers should always be ready to evacuate.

"This is the last thing we wanted to see happen," said Stanton Florea, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman. "Any time we limit public access, it's for a good reason. Obviously, we're trying to avoid a repeat of last year."

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Last fall, wildfires killed 26 people, charred 738,000 acres and destroyed more than 3,600 homes in Southern California.

Experts say conditions are as dry as a year ago. And with last week's arrival of the Santa Ana winds, forest officials say evacuation is the only safe choice.

But residents and campground operators say they could help prevent fires by staying... Residents also expressed concern that an evacuation would invite burglars. They said many mountain bikers ignored closure orders the last two times, in 2003 and 2001, and officials didn't stop them.

The closures include all hiking trails. Visitors are prohibited from Chantry Flats, Upper Westfork, Millard, the Clear Creek area and camps along Santa Clara Divide Road."

Why do residents resist measures established for their own safety? Every year we hear the same complaints from Southern Californians who live and play in zones vulnerable to fires and mud-slides on an annual basis. We all know that fall is fire season and that, inevitably, the hot, dry Santa Anas will come racing over the mountains. We may not get water every year but we sure as hell get those winds.

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Why do these people insist on living in denial that that their homes are vulnerable and insist on staying, which only endangers the area's emergency workers and firefighters if safety personnel have to come in and save their forest-dwelling asses.