The Moment

9|2|09: Los Angeles

It was the stillness that worried firefighters most. The wildfires that now annually singe Southern California came early this year, spreading slowly from drought-stricken wilderness to the foothills near Los Angeles. Fire season is usually worst in October, when the hot Santa Ana winds blow over the San Gabriel Mountains. But this inferno needed no wind--the Station fire in Angeles National Forest burned more than 100,000 acres (40,500 hectares), threatened thousands of homes and killed two firefighters in the dry heat of late summer. The stillness kept the flames from spreading quickly--a climatologist called it the "Jabba the Hutt fire," big...

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