After almost three years, the safety concrete barriers are outward bound.
By Jason KUROSU
The 2009 Station Fire did not just devastate with flames but the newly burned hillsides presented an ongoing threat of mudslides during the rainy season. The fire burned more than 160,000 acres, destroying much of the vegetation in the foothills, which served to buffer against mud and other debris from flooding into residential areas. K-rails – concrete barriers commonly found to control traffic on the highway – were installed throughout La Crescenta and La Cañada over a period of a month, from September to October 2009.
Three years later, the K-rails are finally being removed, much to the delight of residents and county officials alike.
“Over the past (almost) three years we’ve all learned to live with the eye-sore element of the K-rails,” said Pinecrest resident Deb Wheaton. “We’ve painted them, strung them with holiday lights and stuffed them with fake flowers.”
Other nearby residents have complained about how the K-rails reduced available parking space and lowered property values.
About 80% of the rails will be removed in La Crescenta, while the rails in La Cañada will remain for at least another year.
L.A. County Public Works Spokesperson Bob Spencer says the 20% of rails left in La Crescenta plus those left in La Cañada will continue to be monitored by the county.
“The removal process has gone very well,” said Spencer. “So well in fact that we’re ahead of schedule. We expected it to take about six days total, but we now expect to be done during the next two Fridays, ending on June 22.”
Spencer also noted that there weren’t many major landslide or debris incidents to deal with, other than some mudflow in 2010, caused by a 10-ton boulder clogging a catch basin in La Cañada.
“With the regeneration of the forest in the hills, we now feel that it’s safe enough to remove the bulk of the K-rails,” said Spencer. “We appreciate the understanding of the residents and we agree with them that it’s time for the rails to go.”
Wheaton recalled crews removing K-rails on her block with delight.
“Finally at about 6 a.m. last Friday, the crews lined up silently,” Wheaton said. “And by 7:30, they were in full force. Moving and down the hill, they performed the task very quickly – it looked almost choreographed, like a ballet. Seems like they were done by 8. Then the next wave arrived to scoop up the remaining sandbags and with a final quick sweep of the sidewalks, they were gone. This morning, it’s like they were never here.”