Wildfire threatens truckers’ homes in Antelope Valley

| Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Truckers in the Antelope Valley have been carefully monitoring a deadly wildfire, known as the Station Fire, which has come within miles of their homes.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the Station Fire has already scorched more than 121,762 acres, killing two firefighters and destroying more than 18 homes. The department estimates another 10,000 residences and 500 commercial properties are currently threatened by this fire. There are a total of eight wildfires right now, with only one deemed “contained,” in the state of California.

Jeffrey Hillinger, a member of the Antelope Valley Truckers Organization, spent most of his day on Monday, Aug. 31, helping a friend move his collector cars and other possessions from Juniper Hills, CA, where currently a “suggested,” but not mandatory, evacuation order is in place.

A former on-call firefighter for the community of Pinon Hills in San Bernardino County, Hillinger said besides helping his friend move possessions “down the hill” to his property in Littlerock, he also helped him with some preventive fire measures as well. He worked as a firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service through the Angeles National Forest in Valyermo, CA, for a fire season.

Hillinger said he followed in his dad’s footsteps for a time. His dad served as a firefighter for more than 40 years and wrote all of the disaster preparedness specifications for the communities in San Bernardino County.

“I helped a friend of mine put ‘hose’ on the backside of his property so we could at least wet it down and bring up the humidity level a little,” Hillinger told Land Line on Tuesday, Sept. 1. “My friend has a lot of juniper bushes on his property, so even though his land is pretty clear (of brush), if those bushes get preheated, they will go up just like that.”

Hillinger said he witnessed many residents of Juniper Hills attempting to create fire breaks with front loaders Monday in an effort to keep the wildfire from reaching their properties.

He said there were between 30 to 35 tankers and pumper trucks on site in Juniper Hills, along with a couple hundred firefighters and approximately 50 police officers on motorcycles on standby.

While OOIDA member Jeff Smith of Littlerock, CA, said he has been slightly inconvenienced by the wildfire, he was still able to deliver his military load from the Port of Long Beach to Fort Irvin in Barstow, CA. The trip from his house to his delivery point in Barstow usually takes him a little more than one hour; however, with the fire delays, this trip took him more than four hours to complete.

“For the most part I have been pretty lucky and I’ve missed most of the delays others have been experiencing,” Smith told Land Line on Tuesday. “I know they’ve had to shut down the 14 Freeway. It’s been hit-and-miss because they’ve been closing it down going into Acton because of the fires, but I have managed to miss it or I’ve caught it when it’s back open.”

Smith said he has to head back down to the Port of Long Beach to get another load, but he’s not expected to deliver it until Thursday, September 3, instead of Wednesday, because of the wildfire.

The high desert community of Littlerock rarely gets snow. However, resident and OOIDA member Tom Fidger said that’s exactly what it looked like when he walked outside his house the past two days because of all the ash that is floating in the air.

“I wore a particle mask all day yesterday when I was outside because of all the smoke and ash,” Fidger told Land Line Tuesday. “It’s moving to the east now, but there is absolutely no wind here right now. It’s just dead calm.”

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer