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| Friday, Nov 16, 2018
Mishe Mokwa Trailhead post-Woolsey Fire. | Photo: National Park Service.
Mishe Mokwa Trailhead post-Woolsey Fire. | Photo: National Park Service.

 

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area suffered significant damage from the Woolsey Fire, including the destruction of the Western Town at Paramount Ranch and a building housing priceless archives, the National Park Service reported Friday.

The incredibly destructive fire started on Nov. 8, 2018, near the Santa Susana Field Laboratory above Simi Valley near the boundary between Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Santa Ana winds pushed the fire in a southerly direction the first day. It then crossed the 101 Freeway between the San Fernando Valley and the Conejo Valley and headed into the Santa Monica Mountains.

The park is still actively on fire, so it will take time for officials to fully assess the damage and determine the best of course of action.

The Woolsey Fire has burned almost 100,000 acres of land so far.

Most of Western Town at Paramount Ranch was destroyed, as well as the 1927 Peter Strauss Ranch house, the Rocky Oaks ranger residence and museum building, and most of the UCLA La Kretz Field Station.

At this point, 20,839 of the 23,621 National Park Service acres (88 percent) within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area boundary have burned.

Our park partners, California State Parks, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, also sustained significant damage.

Peter Strauss Ranch post-Woolsey Fire. | Photo: National Park Service.

Peter Strauss Ranch post -Woolsey Fire. | Photo:
National Park Service.

The Woolsey Fire has burned more acres within Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area than any other fire in recorded history. Prior to the Woolsey Fire, the biggest park fire was the 1993 Green Meadows Fire at 38,000 acres. The 1970 Clampitt Fire burned 115,537 acres, but it did not burn nearly as much within the recreation area.

Structural damage within the park:
* Most of Western Town at Paramount Ranch, a National Historic Register site, including one park residence. This is the only site in the National Park Service that interprets American film history. It is still a working movie ranch that allows the public to see filmmaking in action.

* The 1926 Peter Strauss Ranch home/Harry Miller House was significantly damaged. From its history as Lake Enchanto, a precursor to larger amusement parks like Disneyland, Peter Strauss Ranch has gone through many changes over the years. The amphitheater survived the fire and we look forward to continuing to host the Tiny Porch Summer Concert Series at the venue, as well as many other special events.

* Most of the joint National Park Service/UCLA La Kretz Research Center

* The Rocky Oaks ranger residence and attached archives building

* The Arroyo Sequit ranger residence

National Park Service rangers assess federal property post-Woolsey Fire. | Photo: NPS.

National Park Service rangers assess federal property post-Woolsey Fire. | Photo: NPS.

Fire, Ecology and Wildlife in the Santa Monica Mountains
Though fire is a natural part of the ecosystem, too much fire can harm plant communities, reduce wildlife habitat, and actually increase future fire risk. Historically, scientists believe that coastal Southern California only had a fire every 100 years or so. Current fires (more than every 20 years) are not natural.

If the landscape burns more than once in a 20-year span, invasive weeds and grasses can establish themselves, making the area even more prone to fire. Invasive weeds and grasses, also known as “flashy fuels,” burn quickly and are more susceptible to wind-driven flames.

In general, large animals like deer, coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions can cover lots of ground and may be able to escape flames. Smaller animals have a much more difficult time. Reptiles and amphibians try to burrow underground.

Though it’s too early to say how wildlife, in general, have fared with this very large and fast-moving fire, we have the following updates on the mountain lions and bobcats we are currently tracking:

UPDATE AS OF 11/16/2018:
Of the 13 mountain lions with working radio-collars in and around the Santa Monica Mountains, we can confirm with GPS locations and movement data that 12 of those mountain lions appear to be alive and moving at this time. There is one mountain lion (P-74) that we are unsure about, either because his GPS collar has not yet transmitted points yet (which is not unusual) or because he needs to be tracked in person with telemetry (which is not possible due to the active incident).

All four bobcats we are tracking appear to be moving. This is promising news. We’re still not sure of their condition, however. It will take time for our biologists to gauge if their movements are normal. It appears the entire home ranges for all four have burned. Moving forward, we will see if they will be able to find the resources they need to continue surviving.

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