Residents Dig In As Officials Demand Evacuation Of Los Angeles Area Forest

Forest fire officials see De Somma and others like her as a liability living amid hills and canyons of kindling-dry pines and brush.

The 570 cabins, built in the 1920s and 1930s and now leased by residents, are not intended for year-round living, though some people do just that. About 120 are now subject to evacuation until a major rain douses fire season, among them about 80 homes in Chantry Flats accessible only by up to a four-mile hike into the wilderness. Forest officials said Thursday those cabins are now empty.

Forest officials cite Chantry Flats as a terrifying example. It has no roads for fire trucks and computer modeling shows a fast-moving blaze would block the only access trail, destroying all the cabins in less than five hours _ without even considering the deadly Santa Ana winds that have already started to blow.

In the last two fire seasons, about 100 recreational cabins burned and firefighters' efforts were hampered by the time and energy spent evacuating people while the fires roared, said Stanton Florea, fire information officer.

While Chantry Flats is being emptied, other cabin owners can apply for a temporary access waiver. Those who live within a few hundred yards of a two-lane county or state road have been be allowed to stay on, Rollman said.

``They're doing this as a precautionary thing and how much can you do in a precautionary stance?'' asked John Bush, one of those remaining, as he raked dry pine needles around his cabin situated near a main road. ``I think I'd get hurt more crossing the street in town.''

But some residents such as Bush are worried the mandatory evacuation order could be expanded as the fire season progresses _ something forest officials acknowledge is a possibility. Others suggest the order presages a Forest Service effort to permanently evict recreational cabin dwellers.

``When the fire season is over, and it's rainy season, is there going to be a flood order?'' asked De Somma. ``When you really think about it, a meteor could come out of the sky. It's crazy.''