24 November 2008

Firestorm in Carbon Canyon, Part V

Strangely, one of the consequences of the nearly disastrous Triangle Complex Fire and its effects on Carbon Canyon has been the relative peace and quiet that has been observed during the last week because of the closure of Carbon Canyon Road. The nightly and weekend daily roar of motorcycles and cars racing through the canyon, for example, has all but disappeared, albeit temporarily. Sleep has certainly been more peaceful these last several days! Moreover, the pungent smell of burned landscape, not unlike that of a campfire, has been gradually and steadily dissipating.

My understanding is that perhaps tomorrow or Wednesday, work crews will be finished reinstalling power poles and lines, telephone lines, and guardrails and the road will reopen. Of course, there is also a forecast for up to a couple of inches of rain, mainly to fall tomorrow and Wednesday. The charred and denuded hillsides, then, will very likely be prone to mudslides, not, in effect, unlike those from the winter rains of 2004-05, except that those slides were due more to a very heavy season of some 28 inches of water, whereas this situation, if it occurs, would be due to the lack of plant material to mitigate erosion. Consequently, we might well find Carbon Canyon Road closed once again, around the Thanksgiving holiday, no less, while CalTrans is brought out to clean up the debris and reopen the road.

Naturally, I have not been over on the Brea side to see firsthand the damage done there, but did see some striking and telling photographs taken by Jose Fernandez of Sleepy Hollow, images that clearly show the near inundation of Olinda Village, the slightly lesser threat to Olinda Ranch, the obliteration of the house and horse stable just east of the La Vida Mineral Springs property, and other areas on that side.The prospect of the Canyon Crest project of 165 homes between Olinda and Sleepy Hollow, coupled with 202 homes in process or planned for the Chino Hills side could not be any more alarming when one only considers what I've said a few times already: a fire originating in the Canyon under the same climatic conditions as the Triangle Complex blaze would have almost certainly been unstoppable and devastating. Even the fire that started near the landfill was pushed west by the prevailing Santa Anas, but turned east and north when the winds died down.

Incidentally, I've been told by someone who seems to be "in the know" concerning the Brea City Council's pre-fire disposition on Canyon Crest that the vote was likely, prior to 15 November, going to be 4-1 or 3-2 to deny the appeal and support the project. Whether that will change at all come the 2 December council meeting will, obviously, be front and center. Once more, it is not just fire (recall that several residents of Silverado Canyon spoke before the Council about their 2007 experiences with wildfires), but also traffic, loss of open space habitat, particulate matter pollution from grading, potential water shortages, and other issues that weigh heavily on Canyon Crest and any proposed development in the canyon.

Of course, the abysmal state of the economy and housing market will preclude any further development for a couple of years at least and, quite possibly, longer, but that approved project is good for virtually eternity, so the idea of these 367 homes getting built down the road can only mean irreparable harm to the canyon long term, while short range benefits peter out in comparison.As the holiday approaches, there is a lot to be thankful for, including the preservation of most of our homes, but there is also much to be concerned about.

Again, next Tuesday, 2 December @ 7:00 p.m. in the chamber of the city council at Brea City Hall, Birch Street at Randolph: those concerned about the canyon's future should make every effort to be there and let the council know that the recent fires do vividly raise the stakes, on top of the other major issues that exist.

1 comment:

James said...

Hi Paul, I'm a freelance writer working on a story about Sleepy Hollow and the fire. I've read your posts, and I'm interested in what you've been discussing as far as the new homes possibly being built and how that will affect the area. Is there any chance you would be willing to talk for a few minutes over the phone via email in the next couple of days? My name is James, and I'm a student at Pomona College in Claremont. My email is jab02006@mymail.pomona.edu