By Charly SHELTON
The Station Fire was a 52-day ordeal last August through October. The fire consumed over 160,000 acres of land in the mountains above the foothill community. After the fire was over and it was safe for media to venture into the low foothills, the public got its first real look at the true scope of the destruction. One year later, experts comment at how new growth has been found in local hillsides and predict what can be expected for this coming winter and rainy season.
This last spring yielded quite a bit of growth in Deukmejian Wilderness Park, according to Park Naturalist Russ Hauck. “The winter rains brought out some spring wildflowers which we haven’t seen in a few years,” said Hauck. “We had good growth, chaparral plant community and flowers in the spring, then it shut down in the summer. But we haven’t seen evidence of establishing any larger plants. It will probably be a couple of years before that happens.”
As far as expectations for this winter and possible flooding, it will all depend on rainfall.
The worst flooding in years was experienced in the foothills on Feb. 6, due in large part to the Station Fire, which destroyed the protective plant life in the hills. Cars were washed down the street, houses flooded, and even some homes destroyed by the unstoppable flowing debris.
Sue Cannon of the United States Geological Survey said that the infant plant growth won’t help much in the rainy season to come.
“We have found that (the new growth) really didn’t make a big difference in our model for estimating how big (the flood damage) will be,” said Cannon. “It was just a drop in the bucket given that the slopes are so steep and there is still so much material up there.”
And this may not be the last rainy season foothill residents will have to worry about.
“What we have seen is that things are usually the worst in the first one-to-two-to-three years, and after that things start tapering off,” said Cannon. “(The upcoming winter’s) forecast is for a La Niña, but sadly we can still get some of the biggest storms we’ve had in a La Niña. The response depends entirely on rainfall.”