With ash still filtering down from out trees and the smoke all but gone, life seems to have gotten back to normal. While watching the fires on either side of Southern California, ranging from San Louis Obispo to San Bernardino, people have become complacent — perhaps too complacent.
Over the past eight months we have seen five fires in the Hansen Dam recreation areas, some other fires in the Big Tujunga Canyon and a fatality fire on La Tuna Canyon. But none of these really affected us here in Sunland-Tujunga. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that we are safe.
Just south of Foothill Blvd. are the Verdugo Mountains that go down to and across the 210 freeway. It is an area overrun with dry brush and debris from years of drought. About four years ago, the LAFD conducted a survey in conjunction with the “mutual assistance agencies” of Glendale, L.A. County and the ANF. The areas north of Foothill Blvd. had streets that were wide enough for fire equipment to travel up and down.
But the areas south of Foothill Blvd. — and in particular the Hillhaven/Reverie area — were determined to be “indefensible.” That means that fire equipment could not travel up the roads and be able to turn around in an emergency. The residents on Hillhaven, Reverie, Inspiration Point and Glen O’ Peace would have to be defended by line crews and water dropping aircraft.
Since the Station Fire, the fire agencies have adopted the strategy of “we hit the fire fast and we hit the fire hard,” as stated by one attending fire captain. “And with all the resources we have available,” added Brian Humphry of the LAFD.
One thing that is different and has changed in the past years is the amount of homeless living in the mountain areas. One L.A. County firefighter remarked, “We have seen an increase in homeless camp fires these past years and it’s just getting worse.” Almost every week in Los Angeles, fires are being accidently started by homeless and transients.
It is up to each and every resident in a fire zone to maintain their 200-foot “brown zone” around their property. The firefighters can’t be everywhere at once, and as was shown in the Sand Fire, those who had the proper fire preparations in place didn’t lose their homes.
A home and family evacuation plan should be in place for every residence so that if you have to evacuate, you will know how to find and transport your children and pets. More information on developing a Personal Emergency Plan will be printed in future editions of The Foothills Paper.