By Odalis A. Suarez
Although days and months have passed since the Station Fire first erupted in August 2009, local residents are still struggling to diminish the remains left by the fire and its aftermath, the flood.
“It was like a war zone,” said La Cañada resident Salpi Chemlekian of the Station Fire.
Salpi with her husband Victor Chemlekian faced both the effects of the wildfire as well as the mudslide.
“It was so bad one day, when you looked outside you [couldn’t] see the fire, you [couldn’t] see the house across the street. That’s how much smoke [there was],” recalled Victor.
Being in such close proximity to the fire, Victor and Salpi suffered a tremendous amount of smoke damage in their home. Damage assessment was $30,000.
“The first week after the fire, [throughout the] whole house you could see the ashes,” recalled Salpi.
In the aftermath of the fire, the Chemlekians were faced with the task of hiring a crew to clean the entire home. In addition to fire damage, the mudslide that ensued a few months later destroyed exterior elements of the home when a truck driving down the muddy hill hit their mailbox and a concrete post.
“You couldn’t drive, you couldn’t drive out, you couldn’t get back in,” explained Victor about the February 2010 mudslide.
The fire and flood may be over, but the Chemlekians still face challenges including a possible replacement of home insulation and collecting insurance compensation from Farmers Insurance, which currently is facing a class action lawsuit.
“It put a big strain on my air conditioner,” stated resident Tara Durkan who while being interviewed had a repairman still fixing her air conditioning.
Not only did Durkan have an environmentalist inspect and clean her entire home but, due to the fire and flood, she needed to refinish her wood flooring and replace her pool equipment.
When the floods came, about 6,000 to 10,000 pounds of mud landed in Durkan’s driveway and damaged the family’s garage door. The consequence of the mudslide caused the destruction of artwork that resided in her garage as well.
Yet, after all of her setbacks during these events, Durkan still expressed positivity and optimism.
“I feel really grateful to be living in such a beautiful home,” she said.
Across the street from Durkan, Ann Fernandes recalled her experience with the long lasting wildfire.
“We had ash in our pool and of course everywhere else outside,” explained Fernandes. “We probably still have ash in the attic.”
Due to the amount of ash that occupied the family’s pool it needed to be emptied out, but repairs became more difficult when the flood arrived. With an empty hole in their backyard, the mud filled the void.
“[The] gate was just shut completely,” she said. “Our backyard was completely damaged.”
Currently, the backyard and the retaining walls are fixed, but Fernandes is still facing further repairs to her side hill, which was once occupied by ice plants. She is still clearing her attic of ash.
Victoria Gross, whose backyard was right next to one of the burning hillsides, had her sprinkler system melt. Additionally, her pool filter needed to be replaced while embers burned holes in her trampoline.
However, Gross not only has her ice plants to thank for sparing her home, but her own preventative efforts by having aggressive brush clearance done.
“[I] quarterly keep it cut down so it’s not such a maintenance issue,” she explained.
For victims of the Station Fire and flood, it has become a slow progression to full recovery and, despite the damages that these environmental incidents may have left behind, the community is recuperating.