Nothing is easy or sim- ple here in S-T. Even if we try to make it sim- ple, someone else will make it hard. Tuesday was a prime example. The morning started with a bang about 3 a.m. as the phone rang and the radio blared: a fire was starting in Kagel Canyon. It was “up & at ‘em” time. But the fire was really on Little Tujunga Canyon Road. As we rolled on it, fire en- gines were heading down to the 210 Freeway.
And that’s where it start- ed getting weird. As I got off on Osborn, the LAFD fire equipment was stag- ing off Foothill and up by Middle Ranch. Everything was calm but the smell of smoke permeated the air. As I passed Ochoa’s Equipment yard, there was no fire suppression in action. So Genaro Molino of the L.A. Times and I continued up the road until we saw Padilla’s Ranch in flames.
There was no one fighting the fire, but we did see ranch hands trying to get out of the ranch from behind a locked electric gate. Genero and I broke through the gate with the Rover and went looking for water. Of the four tank trucks we found, only one was working — and it had no hose. The hands report- ed that there were between 40 and 60 horses and 30 sheep trapped up the road.
The hands had no idea of fire protection and as the fire began to circle the ranch, we told them to go down the road and alert the county fire fight- ers that there were ani- mals trapped here but that all the humans were out. We waited until the LACo Firefighters arrived but the ranch and vehicles were already engulfed. 20 horses perished in the blaze.
This didn’t have to happen. When you live in a forested area, FIRE PROTECTION and plans have to be implemented.
Like the La Tuna Fire, the erratic winds un- did everything that the fire departments tried. The water-dropping he- licopters and fixed-wing aircraft were unable to launch early because of the winds and wild ter- rain. After three hours, we left to file our reports and then to go to the briefing at Hansen Dam. And the rest is history.
Fire is your friend un- til you misunderstand what it can do. While were out documenting this fire, homes of two of our friends burned. And there was nothing we could do to help.
Be aware. Be Safe. And don’t drink the water!