County Brings Fire Awareness to Town Council

By Brandon HENSLEY

L.A. County assistant Fire Chief Greg Hisel stood in front of the Crescenta Valley Town Council and its audience on Sept. 17 and asked if anyone thought if fire season was over, because of area rain several weeks ago.

No one answered in the affirmative, and there were even a few chuckles. The answer was, and is, no. Hisel spoke for almost 10 minutes on what to look out for this fall as weather and other factors could lead to blazes in the hills.

Firefighters look at three main factors that contribute to fire behavior: weather, topography and fuel (dead wood material like needles, fallen branches and logs).

“Even though we see some moisture,” Hisel said, referring to the recent two inches of rain, “when the relative humidity drops, it dries the fuel out very quickly.”

That dryness, along with wind, impacts fire behavior. Hisel advised people to clear ornamental vegetation back a little bit around their houses.

“All that brush around your house, even though it might have a little bit of green on it, it’s going to burn like it’s dead,” he said, adding the outlook for wind activity is above normal through November. October is normally the month this area sees the most wind.

Hisel said some of the local firefighters were up in northern California helping with fires in mid-September when two large wildfires burned for days and destroyed more than 1,000 homes located in the Napa, Sonoma and Butte counties. Hisel said the outlook for SoCal fires is almost always similar to what northern California deals with. L.A. County Fire has resources in the form of Super Scoopers and helicopters, which carry a thousand gallons and 350 gallons of water, respectively.

County fills up the aircraft with water from Castaic Lake or areas in the San Gabriel Mountains, though Hisel said the latter is becoming tougher to take from due to depleted water. The ocean isn’t a main resource, Hisel said, because of the amount of time it may take to fill up and come back for dumping, and also because the salt in the ocean damages the carriers, and repairs can be costly.

Later in the meeting, San Gabriel Mountains Forever consultant John Monsen was able to have council sign a letter of support asking congress for continued efforts in protecting the San Gabriel Mountains.

Monsen gave a presentation about the region and the group itself, which has a mission to seek protection and enhancement of mountains, rivers, and parks.

President Barack Obama designated 346,000 acres of the mountain range as a national monument in 2014.

“The new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument has already generated improvements within the National Monument, including more staff, and re-opened visitor’s [sic] centers, with millions of dollar [sic] in private funding to do more,” stated the letter from council. “We believe that the National Monument and its benefits should be extended to the National Forest land above the La Crescenta area and throughout the San Gabriel Mountain range.”

Monsen called parts of the mountains “a paradise, but sometimes a troubled paradise.” He said projects like a high-speed railroad and lack of funding and trash pickup threaten its beauty.

“If you’ve ever been to the Angeles National Forest, north of Azusa along the San Gabriel River, there are 10,000 people there, but very few facilities,” Monsen said. “[They’re] really terrible conditions, which we hope will change.”

Also at the meeting on Thursday was interim GUSD superintendent Don Empey who told council the district has decided the pool of potential full-time candidates for superintendent does not have enough quality applicants. The deadline has been extended to Dec. 18 to file an application for the position. The board will review more applicants, make recommendations and then conduct interviews. Empey said next March is “probably” when the job will be filled.

Empey, by law, cannot stay on as interim superintendent much longer. He said the district’s board of education is currently looking to hire another interim superintendent.

Empey also said new classes are coming to CVHS, as part of the school’s Science and Medicine Academy. Classes will include sports medicine and sports therapy. Those courses have gone through a committee and are now ready for approval by the board of education. Lesson plans will cover anatomy and injury prevention, and will also help in area job training.

American Legion Post 288 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1614 are supporting active duty men and women from the La Crescenta area this year. The goal is to send cookies, gift cards and other items to those military personnel over the winter holidays and beyond. Last year, Post Adjunct Mike Baldwin said the Post sent out over $400 to soldiers and more than 25 boxes of cookies and other goods. The Posts were assisted by the CV Chamber of Commerce.

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The next CV Town Council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 15 at the La Crescenta Library, 2809 Foothill Blvd.