Preparing for the winter wind and rain by reviewing past fire and flood events in the Crescenta Valley was the topic of the Oct. 19 meeting of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley.
“We dodged a bullet but the gun is still loaded and cocked,” said society president Mike Lawler to the record-breaking crowd that attended the presentation. Lawler introduced Michael Fife who also grew up in the La Crescenta and was a boy during the Pinecrest Flood of 1978. Fife showed slides of what the area looked liked after a massive debris flow came out of Shields Canyon and tore through the new Pinecrest subdivision. The bare hillsides resulting from the Mills Fire of 1975 preempted the ’78 flood and the similarities to the current conditions of our hillsides after the Station Fire could not be disputed.
“My perspective is interesting as I was only 8 at the time of the fire, 11 when the flood happened,” Fife said. “I thought it was really cool.” He showed family and newspaper photos that recounted the sweep of the flood and also pointed out the structural improvements made in the dam at nearby Eagle Basin, the spillway at the top of Pine Cone Road, to counter future flood conditions.
He reminded the audience that it wasn’t just the mudflow that caused chaos, but broken gas lines and compromised flood control tunnels.
By far, the home that received the worst of the damage was that of the Genofile family that lived at the bottom of Pine Cone Road at Markridge. The amount of mud and debris was so massive that it almost completely obliterated the structure. At the Oct. 19 meeting were Jackie Genofile and her son, Scott.
“It happened so fast we didn’t know what was going on,” recalled Scott who was a child at the time of the flood. He recounted how rescuers would pass by their home but the family had been given up for dead. It wasn’t until Scott started whistling that neighbors heard them and started digging them out.
The home was a single level and the mud came crashing in through the windows so quickly that the family barely had time to crawl onto their furniture to escape being buried.
Their ordeal was part of a documentary made by the Discovery Channel showcasing southern California floods.
Completing the evening’s presentation was Chris Stone with the L.A. County Flood Control District. Stone reviewed the installation of K-rails throughout the Crescenta Valley and assured the crowd that many of the debris basins meet the standards set forth by the county and that additional safety measures are being implemented.
But considering that the flood of ’78 followed a fire three years earlier, it will be at least that long – incident-free – before foothill residents feel that they indeed dodged a bullet.