Weather in the Foothills

“Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.”
~Russell Baker, American newspaper columnist,
author and Pulitzer Prize recipient

We like summer, don’t we? Here are the facts; then you can decide. On July 7, local weather history was made when afternoon temperature reached 117 degrees in La Crescenta. With the heat comes the seasonal fires. Yesterday, Cal Fire estimated 100 fires were burning statewide. These fires have taken the lives of firefighters and civilians; several people are missing. Currently, the Carr Fire in Shasta County is of most concern; it has also thought to be one of the worst fires in California’s history. Close to110,000 acres have burned near the city of Redding, claiming the lives of six people. Many are still unaccounted for. More than 1,018 homes have been destroyed (as of press time). At least 38,000 local people have evacuated the area.

In the Sierra, three fires continue to burn. The largest of these is the Ferguson Fire. Yosemite remains closed to tourists. Thus far, the Crescenta Valley been spared, but the season is far from over.

Here, right in our own backyard, wild things of the animal kind are going on. There is good reason for such behavior. First off, we are dealing with wild animals. Oftentimes citizens expect these wild animals not to be “too wild.” They consider them just cute woodland creatures. Really? Our own dogs and cats have better sense!

Wild animals have evolved behaviors and adaptations to make them successful in surviving independently of humans. They are not well-adapted to living in close proximately of people. By definition, such animals include everything from monkeys, tigers, parrots and crocodiles to bobcats, coyotes, raccoons, squirrels and snakes. Domestic animals have been selectively bred by humans for thousands of years. No tigers, monkey or crocodiles here. We have plenty of animals already!

On our local social media, La Crescenta Neighbors Facebook page, there was a post of a close and dangerous encounter worth mentioning. It allegedly occurred on Markridge Road bordering the wilderness area. The following is not a direct quote: “After playing outside all afternoon with my children, I got them to bed. I went back outside as I heard water spraying behind a low wall. I don’t have sprinklers. When I leaned over the short wall, I came face-to-face with a hissing coiled rattlesnake. It was big!” The story had a happy ending for the family and is a good warning for the rest of us.

These true-to-life stories are becoming more common for several reasons. According to the CVWD, we are in a 10-year drought. Our local wild animals are suffering from a lack of natural water sources. The vegetation in their diet is also lacking essential moisture content. Out of the mountains they come to drink from pools, sprinklers, ponds and pet water dishes. We are inadvertently quenching their thirst. While here, they get dinner, too.

To encourage them to stay home, we need to remove the enticements; for example, don’t leave food outside for them, keep small pets indoors ¬– especially at night – and feed pets indoors. It’s not difficult to follow these guidelines. To do otherwise is inhumane – both to wild and our domestic animals.

As the heat continues, can we still like summertime? Summer evenings are lovely as the day cools. Our young people are still home from school. A pool or the beach is always close by. Look skyward in the early dawn hours as Mars’ orbit will come close to Earth. Yes, I believe we can still like and even enjoy summer! But in doing so, always beware of snakes in the grass!


Sue Kilpatrick is a Crescenta Valley resident and Official Skywarn Spotter for the National Weather Service. Reach her at