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Blaze could signal conflagration ahead when Santa Ana winds hit

The mountain inferno that exploded into the BIGGEST FIRE IN MODERN LOS ANGELES HISTORY foreshadows the long wildfire season ahead - one that could make the past two weeks look mild by comparison. Those concerns are fanned by nightmares of the greater devastation that the massive Station Fire might have wreaked had it been whipped by strong Santa Ana winds that typically fuel the region's worst blazes in the fall. The Santa Anas this year will be blowing over tinder-dry brush, made even more dangerous by years of drought. "The one thing behind this big (Station) fire ... is the extreme drought that we've had for the last 10 years. "We've had a few good rainfall years for the last 10 years, but if you take the average drought index of the last 10 years, it's (WORSE) THAN ANYTHING WE'VE SEEN IN 150 YEARS. 

So we are in extreme drought, and the problem with an extreme drought is that you end up getting a lot of dieback in the native vegetation. So there's a lot of dead shrubs up in these landscapes." High up in the Angeles National Forest, at one point the Station Fire was spreading in five directions. "It's been going through my mind that it's not even the peak of fire season. If there had been winds, there's nothing you could have done. The firemen would have been helpless. It would have been really catastrophic." 

Meanwhile, the UNPRECEDENTED drought conditions have been blamed by some residents for the loss of at least 76 homes destroyed by the fire and the suddenness with which flames overran some areas. Federal authorities acknowledge that they failed to follow through on plans earlier this year to burn away most of the potential dangerous brush. "Every big single fire in the last century has been preceded by four years of drought." The Station Fire has cost at least $37 million to fight. The fire had destroyed 157,220 acres as of Sunday. Firefighters have it 49% contained
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