[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Anxious Moments | 08-11-2016
Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Sunny
Sunny
64°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
March 30
1993 - Federal govt. declares coastal California gnatcatcher (bird) a threatened species [story]


Let's Go Outside | Commentary by Evelyne Vandersande
| Thursday, Aug 11, 2016
Park Superintendent Russ Kimura at the gates.
Park Superintendent Russ Kimura at the gates.
 

evelynevandersande_mugOn July 22, I saw a slender column of black smoke to the east.

Because I am one of the volunteers who are called if there is a fire evacuation at Placerita, I called the Nature Center to find out if the fire was close.

Frank Hoffman, recreation services supervisor, answered the phone. He told me all was well; that the fire was actually closer to his home, and that he asked his wife to take some precautions with his animals in case he would have to evacuate.

Little did we know then that this fire, which had started close to the 14 Freeway, would spread so drastically and burn 41,432 acres, destroy 19 structures and cause one death.

Many docents had to leave their own homes quickly, and we were all very much concerned for their safety. We were to find out later that the daughter of one of our docents evacuated to her father’s house, but her own home was one of those destroyed in the fire. Sad tragedies all over.

I will cover here only in broad strokes how the situation evolved at Placerita…

SandFirePlacerita03On July 23, it was clear the circumstances were changing. Sand Canyon and Placerita Canyon roads were closed, so only official help could be called for rescue. Two trucks from the Whittier Narrows Nature Center came to take all of our animals to Vasquez Rocks for protection.

They had heard of our precarious situation and came from all the way across the 210 Freeway, to offer their help. At the time, the 14 Freeway was crowded due to all of the evacuations, and Sand Canyon was at a standstill. So this help was a real blessing.

Many people were evacuated on Sand Canyon, and many have horses that had never been inside a trailer. Those horses had to be led by hand out of the canyon. If you add the noise from the fire and the smell of the smoke, you can well imagine that owners and animals were nervous.

Frank Hoffman

Frank Hoffman

At the Nature Center, Frank Hoffman and Marietta Ewing, recreation services leader, prepared all of the cages and quietly loaded the animals. It was done carefully to minimize the amount of stress.

Vasquez Rocks is the logical place to evacuate our animals because Vasquez has animals of its own. Its staff and docents are used to the feeding schedule and even have rats to feed the raptors.

All of the computers and taxidermy were also taken out of the main building at Placerita. Vasquez Rocks was later threatened for a short while, and that was another source of anxiety, but the danger passed and the Vasquez Rocks Interpretive Center was spared along with our evacuated animals.

SandFirePlacerita01On July 24, it was heartbreaking when we learned that Los Pinetos Trail, Waterfall Trail and Walker Ranch had burned. At the time, the fight to keep the Nature Center buildings safe had started. Russ Kimura, the park superintendent at Plaerica, and Hayden Sohm, deputy director of facilities for the L.A. County Department of Parks and Recreation, were constantly monitoring the road and the fire progress, assessing the situation with the fire crews and sending information to county officials.

We were extremely grateful that Leon Worden (SCVNews.com) and Ron Kraus (Placerita Canyon Nature Center Associates president) posted information on Facebook on a regular basis to bring us news. Here was the message from Leon Worden at 1 a.m. on July 25:

“Placerita Canyon Nature Center is still standing. Crew from Oregon arrived a couple of hours ago and is camped out in the parking lot and has been clearing brush. Closest active flames are about 1/2 mile away and progressing slowly in zero wind. Other units are handling flames on both sides of Placerita Canyon Road just east of the Walker Ranch entrance. Numerous hot spots throughout the canyon are likely to flare up for days.”

SandFirePlacerita02As the morning progressed, the fire did the same, going against the wind. The situation became scary as the fire approached the Nature Center. Planes started to make water drops in a systematic pattern for three hours along the fire break that had been created, and by 3.30 p.m., the fire in that area was out.

Ron Krauss told us the good news:

“The Nature Center, Walker Cabin, Oak of the Golden Dream and adjacent areas have escaped fire damage. The fire crews constructed a network of fire breaks around the park which protected it from the oncoming flames. Although the fire apparently has passed through the area, the crews will remain on duty in the park in case of flareups. Placerita Canyon Road and the park will remain closed until further notice.”

July 25 was a day of great anxiety for all of us, and we are very grateful to the Oregon, Kern County and other firefighters who fought so hard and were ultimately successful in keeping our beloved Nature Center standing. We were happy that fire crews used Placerita as their bivouac, using the restrooms and sinks to clean up and be able to rest from their very hard work on our behalf. We knew they were protecting us.

SandFirePlacerita05Something was different in this fire. It was hard to follow the progress on the news because the fire was attacking from many different directions. Facebook was a new tool used efficiently by many, giving accurate information on an hourly basis. Many roads were closed, so it was important for all of us to be aware of what was going on.

Uncertainty is nerve-wracking. Thanks to everyone who kept on sending clear and up-to-date information at a time we needed it the most.

The animals were brought back from Vasquez Rocks on July 28. All is well at the Nature Center, and we are happy they are back home.

I have been a docent for 30 years at Placerita and I have lived through a few major fires.

This fire was one of the most ferocious for several different reasons. The temperature each day was well above 100 degrees, making it hard for the firefighters to work in the constant heat. Each day was windy, so the path of the fire was unpredictable. Areas that had burned already were burned a second time, and the fire would still find enough fuel to continue moving, then deviate slightly from the original path and start with renewed vigor.

SandFirePlacerita04Once it was safe to be in the area, the time came to assess the damage, and it was not pretty. The trails that attract our visitors – Canyon, Waterfall and Los Pinetos – were burned beyond recognition and were highly dangerous. Trees that had burned were hanging on each other rock slides closed the trails, and the areas were unsafe.

Those particular trails were securely closed with gates by county request. The pinch points made of large rocks placed on the trail to slow down the bicycles were removed so trucks from the U.S. Forest Service could start cutting trees and large branches that had fallen onto the trails.

This cleanup operation is going to be going on for many months, and the trails will remain closed during that time.

The ashes are also unhealthy to breathe, and they will remain volatile until we get a few good rains. But while we wish for rain, when the rainy season starts, we are going to face mudslides that could block the trails and cause problems with the stream.

We cannot say when these trails are going to reopen in the face of so much uncertainty. We will hope for the best but must prevent accidents to park visitors. This is the reason the long trails will remain closed until further notice.

The short trails around the Nature Center are open, and the buildings are intact. We will continue to offer all of our nature education programs and tours for the school groups, and we are extremely grateful to be able to do that.

Calgrove Fire area, 6 months later. Photo: Leon Worden

Calgrove Fire area, 6 months later. Photo: Leon Worden

The devastation a fire leaves behind is always shocking and disheartening. We get attached to a special tree, a bush that we fell in love with, or how the sun hits the leaves of the trees. So many of them being burned is hard to see and even harder to accept. However, we must remember that the vegetation always comes back – so don’t despair. Chaparral will take you by surprise, and six months to a year from now, the park will be green again with plants growing back and bringing new hope with them.

Do not let this first sight of Placerita bring you down. Keep the faith and the hope for this new birth. It will happen, and that is a firm promise.

 

 

Evelyne Vandersande has been a docent at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center since 1986. She lives in Newhall.

 

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

4 Comments

  1. treehugger says:

    Evelyne, Thank you for the good news about the Park buildings being “saved”. Yes, we need to not give up hope because some of the most beautiful wild flowers NEED fire to seed. After a fire in Bouquet Canyon
    the next Spring brought the amazing wild flowers that have not been seen since. Nature seems to take better care than “we” do.

  2. Fred says:

    Great and extremely accurate article about the Sand Fire and the Nature Center! Thanks, Evelyne!!!

  3. Catlan Rich says:

    An excellent article, thank you.

Leave a Comment


Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
Related Content
RECENT COMMENTARY
Friday, Mar 24, 2017
The ACA woes are long-standing and obvious, and addressing them is long overdue. Both political parties need to face reality and unite for corrections. Democrats offer nothing but criticism and fright, while some recalcitrant Republicans obsess with killing the ACA immediately. Both are foolish.
Thursday, Mar 23, 2017
Many flowers are pollinated by insects, so there is nothing unusual there for the poppies, which are indeed fertilized by insects. What is more unusual is the kind of insects that play an important part in doing this job. It seems the actual pollinator is...
Wednesday, Mar 22, 2017
Despite Trump’s lies, tens of millions will lose insurance, huge premium spikes will hit older and middle-class Americans hard, and low-income children and the disabled will have their health care taken away.
Friday, Mar 17, 2017
Fifteen California community colleges have the option to offer bachelor’s degrees as part of a pilot program created in 2014 by Senate Bill 850, which sought to provide more educational options to help high school graduates get the training required to enter a competitive job market. Senate Bill 769 by Sen. Jerry Hill would expand the pilot program and allow community colleges to offer multiple bachelor’s degree programs in areas where the CSU system is unable to meet the need.
Thursday, Mar 16, 2017
One of my favorite destinations in Death Valley National Park is located in Wildrose Canyon, where you will find what are believed to be the best known surviving examples of charcoal kilns in the western states - plus a great hiking trail and campground.
Wednesday, Mar 15, 2017
Having practiced pharmacy for many years, I often find myself talking to people about their Medicare prescription drug, or Part D, plans. A first step to correcting problems is always to contact your drug plan. If that doesn’t work, you can file a complaint.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
1993 - Federal govt. declares coastal California gnatcatcher (bird) a threatened species [story]
Cherise Moore was selected Wednesday night to fill a vacant seat on the William S. Hart Union High School District governing board. In a 3-1 vote, board members made the selection after hearing from five candidates who applied for the position.
Hart Board Picks Educator to Fill Vacancy
Tonight on SCV NewsBreak, City Council endorsed a bill that would completely reorganize how resident's buy water. Plus, a look inside the Gibbon Conservation Center. Watch these stories and more on tonight's edition of SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Novelist Antoine Wilson has been named the recipient of California State University, Northridge’s inaugural San Fernando Valley Award for Fiction.
CSUN’s Oviatt Library Awards Inaugural Fiction Award to Antoine Wilson
A Santa Clarita City Council discussion about SB 634, which would completely reorganize how residents buy water, led to more than three hours of discussion, and ultimately, an endorsement.
Council Backs Water Merger After Long Discussion
Commander Roosevelt Johnson of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station announced at Tuesday's City Council meeting that his last station “patrol” will be Saturday.
SCV Sheriff’s Station Captain Announces Final ‘Patrol’
Al-Umma Center of Santa Clarita Valley, the Islamic Center of Santa Clarita Valley, and the Santa Clarita Valley Interfaith Council invite the community of the Santa Clarita Valley, and all other interested citizens, to a Santa Clarita Community Forum: “Building Strength through Diversity.”
April 15: Community Forum to Discuss ‘Building Strength through Diversity’
Actor and CalArts alumna Condola Rashad (Theater BFA 08) joins Laurie Metcalf, Chris Cooper and Jayne Houdyshell onstage for a Broadway production of Lucas Hnath's A Doll's House, Part 2, with previews starting on March 30 at John Golden Theatre in New York.
CalArts Alum in Broadway Production of A Doll’s House, Part 2
Princess Cruises has announced the newest additions to the Encounters with Discovery at Sea speaker series program.
Princess Cruises Reveals 2017 Encounters with Discovery at Sea Program
Since his debut in 2014, Jason Karkenny has been known more for his right arm than anything else. Along the way he's thrown a perfect game and become the winningest pitcher in program history.
Corralling The Herd
The County of Los Angeles Department of Consumer and Business Affairs (DCBA) will be hosting a Business Connections event on Thursday, March 30 at the Centre on Centre Pointe Parkway from 8 a.m. to noon.
March 30: Grow Business, Network with Contractors at Business Connections Event
The College of the Canyons football program has released its 2017 spring football practice schedule with sessions set to begin on Monday, April 10.
Canyons Football Announces 2017 Spring Practice Schedule
College of the Canyons Chancellor Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook has been named as the National Pacesetter of the Year by the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations (NCMPR).
Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook Named National Pacesetter of the Year
Supervisor Kathryn Barger is hosting her first State of the County luncheon with Santa Clarita Valley business and community leaders on Thursday, May 11 at the Hyatt Regency Valencia.
May 11: Barger Holds First State of the County Luncheon
Representative Steve Knight (CA-25) joined a bipartisan effort Tuesday to urge the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to investigate and address ongoing problems with the Veterans Crisis Line program.
Knight Calls on VA to Fix Veterans Crisis Hotline
The Castaic Lake Water Agency Planning and Engineering Committee is having a meeting on April 4, 2017 at 5:30 p.m. in the Training Room at the Rio Vista Water Treatment Plant.
April 4: CLWA Planning, Engineering Committee Meeting
California Film Commission Newsletter for Spring 2017.
CA Film Commission News: Santa Clarita Featured, Tax Credit, More
The County of Los Angeles is home to millions of pet loving families who are against animal abuse and suffering. In support of our furry constituents, Supervisors Hilda L. Solis, Sheila Kuehl, Janice Hahn, and Kathryn Barger passed a motion to advocate for the fair treatment of animals and oppose China’s Yulin Dog Meat Festival.
Supes Say ‘No’ on Animal Cruelty and Abuse
It’s springtime, and 14 member artists of the Santa Clarita Artists Association will be featured at a fine art exhibition in Westfield Valencia Patios this coming Saturday April 1, from 12 to 5:30 p.m.
April 1: SCAA Exhibition at Westfield Valencia Patios
1928 - Little dam victim, thought unidentified & buried in SCV, actually ID'd & buried in Chatsworth [story]
Tonight on SCV NewsBreak, five out of seven candidates are left in seeking a seat on the Hart District governing board. Plus, wondering what TV shows and movies are filming in SCV this week? Watch these stories and more on tonight's edition of SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Southern California may lose two-thirds of its beaches to rising sea levels by the end of this century, according to a report released Monday by the U.S. Geological Survey.
SoCal Could Lose Two-thirds of Beaches to Rising Sea Levels
After having Tuesday's series opener postponed due to inclement weather, No. 16 College of the Canyons defeated host Victor Valley College 7-0 on Thursday, behind eight scoreless innings from freshman lefty Jacob Lopez.
No. 16 Canyons Gets 7-0 Road Win vs. Victor Valley
Sophomores Jasmine Hall and Samiyah Hawkins each won a pair of events on the women's side and freshman Delon Buncio leaped his way to a first place finish for the men's squad, as the College of the Canyons track & field teams finished second and fourth, respectively, at the Bakersfield College Relays on Saturday.
Canyons Track & Field Continues Strong Run at Bakersfield Relays
No. 16 College of the Canyons finished its season sweep of conference opponent Victor Valley College, winning 4-0 and 17-5 to take both games of Friday's home doubleheader at Cougar Field.
No. 16 Canyons Sweeps Doubleheader, Season Series vs. Victor Valley
Deeply respected filmmaker and School of Film/Video Nina Menkes often refers to the sorcery of her work that evokes meaning and truth outside of traditional narrative cinema.
CalArts Filmmaker Talks ‘The Shock of the Real’ at ‘dffb’ Symposium
With the announcement that the United States will begin to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. and New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today issued the following statement reaffirming their ongoing commitment to exceed the targets of the Clean Power Plan and curb carbon pollution.
California, New York Governors Continue Commitment to Clean Power Plan
The Knoxville, Tennessee-based Big Ears Festival curates a world-class lineup of musicians and filmmakers. This year, the festival runs from March 23-26 with several CalArtians screening their works, including School of Theater faculty Janie Geiser and alumni Manuela De Laborde (Film/Video MFA 16), Christina Nguyen (Film/Video MFA 16) and Mike Stotlz (Film/Video MFA 14).
CalArtians Screen Works at Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tenn.
On Saturday, members of The Master’s University women’s track & field program posted outstanding marks at the at the 2017 Westmont Classic w/ Jim Klein Multis on the campus of Westmont College in Santa Barbara.
Lady Mustangs Track & Field Storm Westmont Classic
Last week, members of The Master’s University men’s track & field program had made history at the 2017 Westmont Classic w/ Jim Klein Multis on the campus of Westmont College in Santa Barbara.
Mustangs Track & Field Make History at Westmont Classic
The Newhall Post Office opened its doors for the first time Monday after six months of delay.
Newhall Post Office Now Open After Delays
Tragedy struck a family of six from Santa Clarita in January when 18-year-old Kaeli Edmonds lost control of the car she was driving on Vasquez Canyon Road and Sierra Highway, causing it to strike a mountain and flip three times.
Car Crash Leaves Teen Paralyzed
Ryan Bricker bunted in the go-ahead run in the opener and walked with the bases loaded to provide the winner in the nightcap while Scott Savage pitched his way to a save and a win as The Master's University swept Arizona Christian 8-7 and 11-9 Saturday afternoon.
TMU Baseball Triumphant Over Arizona Christian
Five out of seven candidates are left in seeking the Hart District governing board seat vacated by Robert Hall. The remaining four members scheduled a public meeting Wednesday, March 29, 2017, to interview all applicants, publicly debate about those applicants, and they’re expected to make their decision Wednesday night, from the five residents from District No. 3 boundaries for the William S. Hart Union High School District.
March 29: Hart District to Choose New Board Member
The Academy is now accepting entries for its 2017 Student Academy Awards competition. All Student Academy Award winners become eligible for Oscars consideration. The entry deadline for submissions is Thursday, June 1.
June 1: Deadline for 2017 Student Academy Awards Competition
The Santa Clarita City Council will have a special meeting on March 28 at 5:30 p.m.in City Council Chambers.
March 28: Agenda for Special Meeting of City Council