By Mary O’KEEFE
The Crescenta Valley Fire Safe Council treated the California Civilian Corps (CCC) to a picnic lunch at Two Strike Park for their help in clearing vegetation in vulnerable areas including Briggs Terrace, Sutton and Goss canyons.
“It was a project to reduce the risk of fire with hazardous fuel reduction,” said J. Lopez, asst. chief, Natural Resources Section Forestry Division, Prevention Services Bureau, County of Los Angeles.
Lopez and members of the CV Fire Safe Council have been working together to identify areas of concern. Abatement allows firefighters defensible space around a residence and is an important part of fire prevention, but residents have little to no control over the vegetation beyond their property. That is where the CCC comes in, to go beyond the property line and create a defensible space for fire fighting.
The idea is to clear the dry vegetation from around risky areas, like the bases of trees, to slow the fire’s spread. This abatement system worked well in the residential areas around the Station Fire, preventing loss of structures.
Lopez described the CCC’s work as acting to create a sort of speed bump to slow the fire down. It not only reduces the fuel but reduces embers as well.
“[La Crescenta] is a very high fire zone [as noted by] the state. We know a fire can happen here and talked about what we could do,” Lopez said.
Lopez and Roger Young from the CV Fire Safe Council worked together on identifying the best areas to clear and submitted a grant proposal to the state. The proposal included an environmental compliance section. The state awarded the funds, sourced from a parcel tax paid by residents to the state, to the project and the clearing began.
“They are about two-thirds done,” Young said. “We have a last bit along Goss Canyon.”
Resident Greta Pruitt was at the Two Strike picnic to thank the CCC crew personally. She has a large property in the Goss Canyon area.
“They have limbed [the area],” Pruitt said, using the technical term for clearing debris from the base of trees. “It is impossible to do without huge equipment.”
She was happy to see her parcel tax money at work as the CCC crews cleared the area. Pruitt has weathered many fires in the area and knows what it takes to protect her property.
After a devastating fire in November 1975, her daughter planted a Christmas (pine) tree in one section of her land. By the time the Station Fire burned through in 2009, that small tree had grown to about 40 feet. During the fire, the L.A. County Fire Dept. asked if they could use that section of her land as a back burn area.
“[LACoFD] asked what I would want to save,” she said. At first she didn’t believe they could save anything but she asked them to spare her daughter’s tree. “They did.”
Taking care of the area is nothing new to the L.A. County Forest Division. Tamara Hanna, deputy forester, Vegetation Management Unit, Forest Division Prevention Services Bureau, said they have been clearing brush and responding to the area for years. In fact, she shared an article from the Auto Club magazine that spoke of how the Forest Service had worked to clear vegetation and protect the area before and after the Great Flood in 1934.
Long time resident Tim MacDonald also knows the importance of being fire ready.
“I’ve lived through two Verdugo Hills fires, the 1970s fire and the Station Fire,” he said. His property has also benefited from the recent clearing.
The fact remains that even though the mountains are green thanks to the recent rains and the Station Fire burned a lot of the old forest, the area will still burn. The CV Fire Safe Council and L.A. County Forestry Division are doing what they can to make certain all are prepared before the next fire burns.