[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
Clear
Clear
72°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
July 26
2002 - Hollywood premiere of Disney's "The Country Bears," filmed at Golden Oak Ranch in Placerita Canyon [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
Thursday, Jul 20, 2017
Much of the dramatic decline of the yellow-billed cuckoo in California has been directly attributed to breeding habitat loss and degradation from lands being converted to agricultural and other urban uses.
Wednesday, Jul 19, 2017
The Newhall Ranch project will create nearly 74,000 permanent jobs within the region and an estimated 130,000 construction jobs over the decades it will take to build the project, and it will provide a variety of housing types from apartments and starter homes to places to raise a family, from affordable housing to executive housing.
Friday, Jul 14, 2017
Medicare covers a variety of heath care services that you can get in the comfort and privacy of your home. These include intermittent skilled nursing care, physical therapy, speech-language pathology services, and occupational therapy.
Tuesday, Jul 11, 2017
In their attempt to usurp the Division of State Architect's role in the reopening of Acton School, the Acton-Agua Dulce school board has exposed itself to possible penalties being levied against the district, or civil lawsuits against individual board members.
Sunday, Jul 9, 2017
Python hunters work in pairs. One is the puller and one is the “hole guy.” The hole guy crawls into the hole to face the python head-on. When he’s bitten and the snake is holding on tight, the puller pulls out the hole guy, and the snake comes out with him.
Wednesday, Jul 5, 2017
As the temperatures go up this week, a great way to cool off is to head to one of the City’s six pools, says Santa Clarita City Manager Ken Striplin.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
Tonight on SCV NewsBreak, puppies and pints abounded at fundraiser Tuesday evening. Plus, the passing of a local legend. Watch these stories and more on tonight's edition of SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Bob Danis, Korean War veteran, United States Air Force interpreter, singer, trumpet player and Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center band leader, died Tuesday in Valencia. He was 85.
Bob Danis, Korean War Veteran, Senior Center Star, Dies at 85
Legislation introduced by Representative Steve Knight (CA-25), known as the Securely Expediting Clearances through Reporting Transparency Act, H.R. 3210, or SECRET, passed the House today with a unanimous, bipartisan vote.
House Passes Knight’s ‘SECRET’ Act; Senate Next Stop
Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said the department would seek further legal clarity on its obligations to conform to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brady decision.
Sheriff’s Department Seeks Clarity on Brady Decision
California Senator Scott Wilk will update the Santa Clarita Valley business community on state and local water projects at the SCV Chamber of Commerce's next "Good Morning SCV" breakfast on August 9.
August 9: Wilk Water Update at ‘Good Morning SCV’ Breakfast
CalArts alum Roger Holzberg (BFA 76), a cancer survivor and former creative director/VP at Walt Disney Imagineering, co-founded Reimagine Well, a revolutionary company that creates immersive healing experiences and builds custom virtual reality theaters in hospitals for pediatric and adolescent cancer patients.
CalArtians Collaborate on ‘Infusarium’ for Youth Cancer Patients
The monthly meeting of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission will take place at the Metropolitan Water District office in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday, July 27 starting at 9 a.m.
July 27: Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission Meeting
Providence St. Joseph Health and Well Being Trust jointly announce the first round of $10 million in grants and contracts to mental health and wellness initiatives that will help vulnerable Californians.
Providence, Well Being Boost Mental Health Initiatives with $10 Million in Grants
The Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health is partnering with Univision to host a mental health and immigration awareness telecast on Thursday, July 27 from 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on KMEX, Channel 34.
July 27: County, Univision Host Mental Health, Immigration Telecast
The FBI and Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station warn of kidnapping scams and offer tips about what to do if you get one of those calls.
FBI, Sheriff’s Officials Warn of Virtual Kidnapping Scams
Garrett Hampson totaled four hits and the Lancaster JetHawks outhit the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes but lost, 11-4, on Tuesday night at LoanMart Field.
JetHawks Outhit, But Don’t Outscore Quakes Tuesday
Local singer-songwriter Savannah Burrows headlines a show also featuring country cover band Double Wide at Central Park on Saturday, July 29, at 7 p.m.
Savannah Burrows, Double Wide Bring Country to Central Park
Celebrate the benefits of vaccination during August, National Immunization Awareness Month.
August is National Immunization Awareness Month
Here's a list of the streets in Santa Clarita set for the city's Road Rehab Project from July 25 to August 4.
July 25-August 4: Santa Clarita Roads in Rehab
The California Highway Patrol's Newhall station will host a "Start Smart" driving class for teens at the station on Saturday, August 19 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
August 19: Newhall CHP ‘Start Smart’ Teen Driver Class
2002 - Hollywood premiere of Disney's "The Country Bears," filmed at Golden Oak Ranch in Placerita Canyon [story]
For 42 years Soroptimist International of Valencia has been committed to the Live Your Dream program awarding cash grants to disadvantaged women.
Aug. 1: Summer “Wine” Down to Raise Funds for Disadvantaged Women
Tonight on SCV NewsBreak, A bear sighting was reported in Newhall Tuesday morning. Plus, the Child & Family Center and Domestic Violence Center of Santa Clarita Valley are going forces and planning to merge. Watch these stories and more on tonight's edition of SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Tuesday, July 25, 2017
The California State University (CSU) has partnered with the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) to develop the next generation of clean energy entrepreneurs.
CSU Receives Grant; Will Fund Workshops for Clean Energy Entrepreneurs
The largest-ever concert series devoted entirely to the music of renowned composer John Luther Adams (Music BFA 73) takes place this week (July 26-July 30). Hosted by SFJAZZ, the festival takes place in several venues in San Francisco, including the Miner Auditorium, Grace Cathedral and the Sutro Baths at Lands End in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Concert Series Devoted Entirely to CalARTS Alum
The Child & Family Center and Domestic Violence Center of Santa Clarita Valley have announced their intention to join forces and merge into a single organization to better serve the needs of the growing Santa Clarita community.
DVC Merging Into Child & Family Center
Local artist Chrystal Walker presents a one-woman show at FastFrame Valencia, located at 24204 Valencia Blvd., during September.
Sept. 1: One-Woman Show on Printmaking by Local Artist
Santa Clarita deputies are investigating a report of a bank robbery at the Logix location on McBean Parkway.
Suspected Serial Bank Robber Hits Logix in Valencia
Santa Clarita’s night-time commuters might notice some slowing on the freeway in the coming weeks, due to some road construction projects, officials said Tuesday.
Officials Issue Travel Alert for LAX Commuters
Knowing that up to 70 percent of residential water is used for landscaping, it’s no surprise that conscientious homeowners are looking for efficient irrigation methods to minimize water waste, and lower household water bills.
Aug. 19: CSUN-al Offering Class on Water-Saving Methods for Home and Garden
CHP officers and Fish and Wildlife officials were unable to locate a bear reported near Calgrove Boulevard and Wiley Canyon Road, in Newhall on Tuesday morning.
Bear Sighting in Newhall
Despite robust closed escrow sales in June, California pending home sales slipped for the sixth consecutive month, suggesting an impending slowdown in the state's housing market as the peak homebuying season winds down, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) said today.
State Sees Downward Trend in June Home Sales
On Saturday, August 19, 2017, test your strength, stamina, and endurance at the 12th Annual Plane Pull fundraiser at the Long Beach Airport.
Aug. 19: Annual Plane Pull Benefiting Local Non-Profit
Trey Killian tossed seven shutout innings to lead the Lancaster JetHawks to a 3-0 win over the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on Monday night at LoanMart Field
Killian Gets 7th Win; Throws for Seven Shutout Innings
According to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, air quality will be unhealthy for sensitive individuals in Santa Clarita Valley Tuesday.
Air Quality Advisory for Sensitive Individuals in SCV
Rep. Steve Knight’s (CA-25) bill, H.R. 2333, Small Business Investment Opportunity (SBIO) Act of 2017, passed the House Monday with unanimous support.
Knight Bill to Improve Small Business Investments Unanimously Passes House
1915 - Pioneer Juan Batista Suraco buried in a family graveyard, currently unmarked, in Bouquet Canyon near Benz Road [story]
The Los Angeles Dodgers Monday reinstated left-handed pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu from the 10-day disabled list, put Clayton Kershaw on the DL with low back strain, among other roster moves.
Dodgers Roster Moves: Kershaw & McCarthy on DL, Ryu Reinstated
Sierra Bancorp, parent of Bank of the Sierra, today announced its unaudited financial results for the three- and six-month periods ended June 30, 2017.
Sierra Bancorp Reports Earnings for First Half of 2017
Marston's restaurant in Valencia will donate 20 percent of patrons' bills for breakfast, lunch or dinner to the fundraising effort for the new Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center on Tuesday, July 25.
July 25: Dine at Marston’s, Benefit New SCV Senior Center