[LA FEATURE]California Wildfires

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Firefighters Died During Search for Escape Route

By Jonathan Lloyd
|  Tuesday, Sep 15, 2009  |  Updated 12:53 PM PDT
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The charred remains of a Los Angeles County fire truck, where two Los Angeles County firefighters were killed, sits at the bottom of a hill on Mount Gleason.

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County Fire Officials Talk About Deaths of Colleagues

Fire officials announce the deaths of two firefighters.
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LA County Fire Capt. Tedmund "Ted" Hall and firefighter Specialist Arnaldo "Arnie" Quinones might have been searching for a way out of the flames in the minutes before they died Sunday above the Antelope Valley.

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The firefighters were killed about 2:30 p.m. Sunday when their vehicle rolled off a mountainside road in the Angeles National Forest, south of Acton near Mount Gleason, fire officials said. Quinones, 35, of Palmdale and Hall, 47, of San Bernardino County.were supervising an inmate work crew at a remote prison camp.

State corrections officials said the two men might have been searching for a route that would allow three corrections workers, other fire personnel and 55 inmates to escape the fire.

They were "apparently taking action to protect the camp facilities and personnel," county Fire Chief Michael Freeman said in a statement.

Hall and Quinones "are to be credited with helping to save the lives" of others at the camp, Correction and Rehabilitation Secretary Matthew Cate said in a statement.

The LA Times reported that Hall was married and the father of two sons. Quinones was married and expecting his first child, the newspaper reported.

"We recognize it's a dangerous job, it's difficult," said Capt. Mark Savage. "We will mourn, of course, but we also have a fire out there that we need to get a handle on. We will continue to do what we have to do to contain this fire."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger expressed sadness over the deaths.

"Our hearts are heavy as we are tragically reminded of the sacrifices  our firefighters and their families make daily to keep us safe," he said in a  statement. "This is a devastating day for firefighters everywhere ..."

Fire spokesman Mike Bryant said the deaths occurred during "intense fire activity" near Mount Gleason.

They were "overrun by a fast-moving fire which approached Fire Camp 16 on the Station Fire incident," according to a county fire statement.

Fire officials said the men were supervising brush clearance at a Department of Corrections inmate campsite.

Hall had been with county fire for 26 years. Quinones had been  with the department for eight years. The two men were killed when their vehicle went over the side of a road. Video shot from a helicopter showed the vehicle on its roof.

Funeral arrangements were pending Monday.

County Supervisor Don Knabe said the community should pause to honor the  fallen firefighters.

"Today we lost two of our own from the Los Angeles County family when  two firefighters were killed on the front lines of the Station Fire," he said  in a statement. "With singular focus, the men and women of the Los Angeles  County Fire Department race into danger every day, fearlessly placing  themselves between the public and harm's way."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., also offered her condolences, saying  her heart went out to the men's families.

"These brave men put their lives on the line to protect the lives and  property of others," Feinstein said. "I know I speak for all Californians  when I say I am deeply grateful for their service, and deeply saddened by their  deaths."

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, said the Assembly would adjourn Monday in honor of Hall and Quinones to remember  "the heroic  sacrifice" they made "performing the duties they loved -- duties that  protected the lives and homes of countless others."

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