By Mary O’KEEFE
Dealing with mud and drugs were the main topics at the November meeting of the Crescenta Valley Town Council.
Los Angeles County Fire Department Battalion Chief Steve Martin was blunt in his assessment of what lies ahead for Crescenta Valley residents.
“We don’t want to cry wolf but the fact is that mountain will move with a large amount of rain,” Martin told council.
He said that the Station Fire was an unprecedented burn. The fire is recorded as the largest in the history of Los Angeles County with 160,577 acres burned.
L.A. County Fire has been working with other emergency agencies and public works department on preparing for the worst.
“We have been working behind the scenes to be prepared for when the mudflow comes. It is not a question of if but when,” he said.
Martin spoke briefly about the recent rains and how a small amount of water filled the debris basins and sent mud flowing into yards and over cars.
“And that was in a few minutes of an untracked storm,” he said.
Councilwoman Danette Erickson commented on the various amounts of rainfall that fell throughout Crescenta Valley. Some received no rain while others had a downpour.
Martin added that the department has plans to put historical information on its website concerning the area and how storms can sit on top of the mountains. Knowing the history will help in the planning of the future, he said.
“We can’t move fire engines up to the area [during a mudflow]; they will just be in the way. The situation will call for evacuations, pure and simple…When the mud starts flowing it is not something you want to be in front of,” he said.
Everyone must be ready to evacuate, he told the council and those in the audience. There will be some who wait until the last minute leaving a difficult decision for fire fighters and sheriff personnel. Do they put their personnel at risk for those who refused to evacuate when it was ordered and still safe?
Some in the audience wanted to know how long they would be given to evacuate. Martin said he could not say because every situation is different. He did add that is why they need to be ready now to leave at a moment’s notice.
“We are here to tell you nothing…in recorded history has been seen [like this to prepare us] for what we are about to have come down on us,” Martin said.
The council also invited Glendale Officer Matt Zakarian and a narcotics officer stationed at the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station to speak.
The narcotics detective, a 25 year veteran of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, had worked in several other areas from Compton to Malibu before coming to Crescenta Valley. He said that when he first arrived at the station the methamphetamine was surpassing rock cocaine in popularity.
“Now our biggest problems are LSD, Ecstasy, heroin and marijuana,” the detective said.
He told the council and those in the audience that information comes slowly when dealing with narcotics. He added that many times leads come from members of the community.
“Anyone who has information can call me at the station. Your name will never get out. I promise,” he said.
Zakarian then spoke about how the rise in heroin use in the area startled him. He graduated from Crescenta Valley High School and knows the area very well. He also remembered that when he was in high school there were always drugs but this trend is different.
“I realized we had to do something other than neighborhood watch group which is important but we needed something different,” Zakarian said. “I knew the problem was serious enough I had to get on it right away. “
He knew several parents that were going through some difficult times with their teens and drugs.
“Some of them were having real serious problems. They came to me and asked, ‘What are we going to do about it?’ ”
Zakarian gathered more parents together and they started having meetings that concerned the drug issues in the area.
“We wanted to get information out to the community but also to give comfort to those parents,” he recalled.
The meetings morphed into the Drug and Alcohol Prevention Council.
Howard Hakes, the spokesman for the group, explained the council’s goals.
“We saw that there was a rise in drug cases and so we built this coalition of people to bring awareness of the issue and to basically have people take the blinders off,” Hakes said.
The council now has support from law enforcement, community and education members and Crescenta Valley Town Council that has members on the board and attends meetings. Crescenta Cañada YMCA also joined the group to offer support with the after school programs.
Some of the areas the council is now working on include an after school community center for high school and middle school teens; a website with information on alcohol and drug use and where to get help if needed; and a community outreach program that will educate parents on the issues. With the help and support from Crescenta Valley High School Principal Linda Evans a grant was obtained for family counselor Pam Erdman to work one on one with parents who are struggling with a drug issue in their family.
“They say it takes a village to raise a child but it is going to take our entire community to help us get through this,” Zakarian said.
For information concerning the Drug and Alcohol Prevention Council e-mail Nancy Stone at CNSTONE7@aol.com or Officer Zakarian at email@example.com.
The Crescenta Valley Town Council also has information on the Drug and Alcohol Prevention Council on its website, along with a community poll concerning drugs in the foothills. The town council’s website – www.thecvcouncil.org – has information on what is going on in the community.
“We encourage people to sign up to be on our e-mail lists,” said town council Vice President Frank Beyt.