08 July 2010

Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council Meeting Recap

Last night was the regular monthly meeting (each first Wednesday) of the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council, held at the Sleepy Hollow Community Center.  A lot of important information came out of the gathering, so a little digest seemed in order.

First, the second Wildfire Awareness Fair, held at Western Hills Park on the Chino Hills side of the Canyon on 12 June, drew a little under 200 persons, about sixty fewer than in 2009.  Several factors could have accounted for the lower turnout, including anomaly, but it was pointed out that the first fair was six months (and, therefore, still fresh in people's minds) after the devastation wrought by the Freeway Complex Fire.  There were good speakers, excellent displays and demonstrations, and other notable components.  Although there was some talk of making the event biannual (that is, every two years) because of concern for the lower attendance, others felt that the fair was worthwhile to do annually and that momentum with sponsors, vendors and canyon residents might be lost if 2011 was "dark."  One suggestion was to hold the event in Olinda Village next year and tap into more residents on the OC side of the Canyon, with Olinda School being mentioned as a prospect.

Brush clearance under a grant from FEMA has continued west of Oak Tree Downs, this dealing with the removal of dry plant materials in a wide swath around inhabited areas that border undeveloped land.  In a related matter, the final stage of billing for brush clearance on properties of non-compliant owners has been underway by the Chino Valley Independent Fire District.  There are sixty-seven such persons/entities in Carbon Canyon, of which about 70% received notices to destroy brush followed by district-ordered clearance and invoicing of said owners for the cost of removal.  About twenty parcels have been redone because of further growth.  Answering a question about the process, a district supervisor noted that 15 May is the official deadline for brush removal, but that there is a ten-day grace period, followed by the preparation for notices.  Essentially, then, 10 June becomes the last day before citations are issued.  It is important to note, though, that there is a movement to treat weeb abatement as a year-round matter, rather than focusing on late spring activity.  Finally, there will be tumbleweed abatement pursued the third week of August to deal with those notorious summer accumulations of dry wind-blown plant material.

Another important component of the brush removal/weed abatement program is grant funding made available to the Council for pick ups of removed plant material.  Limited so far to the Chino Hills side, but, hopefully, expanded at some point to Brea, the pick ups are ongoing through the end of July.

As for brush removal on the Brea side, a fire department representative noted that work in Olinda has been very successful for the most part, although attention needed to be paid to city-owned property at the top of Olinda Drive at the eastern end of the community.  Previously, this same rep noted the irony of the original 1960s planting of so many pine trees that actually have created a major fire hazard.  The city would like to remove those trees, but it will incur a great expense in removal and the replanting of trees friendlier to the fire-prone environment of the Canyon.

This representative also noted that, when California State Parks acquired former oil-lease property to the north of Olinda Village, it did so with the express agreement to maintain brush clearance and defensible space to protect the homes there.  With the current budget mess in Sacramento, however, there simply is no money for the Parks Department to conduct that work.  Discussion at the meeting, though, explored the possibility of bringing in work crews from one of the state prison facilities in Chino, provided that fundraising could come up with the basic costs of operating these crews.

A brief update was also given on the contentious matter of whether the City of Brea will close its fire department and contract with the Orange County Fire Authority.  The last council meeting rendered no decision, though plenty of discussion, and the next meeting is scheduled for 20 July.

The latest news on the removal of the notorious arundo donax, the choking bamboo plant that plagued the Brea side of the Canyon until the November 2008 fires provided one silver lining: the burning of the material to the ground so that spraying could be pursued without time-consuming cutting.  Several agencies have worked together on this project, which has brought about an initial spraying, the results of which are readily seen in the dying arundo along Carbon [Canyon] Creek.  Sometime this fall, this withering material will be cut and then a second spraying introduced after the upcoming rainy season and the sprouting of any new growth that survived the first round.  Meantime, a few areas in the Chino Hills side, particular near the old church across from the Sleepy Hollow Community Center area have been identified for future phases of treatment.

Another interesting project is the planned creation and installation of four signs warning drivers on Carbon Canyon Road of the fire dangers that exist in the Canyon.  The plan is to install these signs at intervals at both sides of the Canyon and these are color coded for easier visibility and to change the look, so people are likely to notice when the signs are switched out.

Finally, some time was spent discussing the increase in transiency found in the Canyon, particularly in the area just north of Carbon Canyon Road and east of Sleepy Hollow.  While the Hollow has long had  a few persons who have wandered about the neighborhood, often sleeping out on private property, there has, since the economic downturn, been a noticeable uptick in the homeless.  Not surprisingly, as covered recently in this blog, reports of theft have occurred, mainly breaking into unsecured cars.  A Chino Valley fire district board member reported that the City of Chino Hills has given assurances that, if formal complaints are filed with the police department, action will be taken.  So, we'll see what comes of this.  From the Fire Safe Council perspective, there is a real danger of fire here, from illegal tapping into electrical lines, illicit fires and other possibilities.  As was pointed out, the huge 1990 wildfire in the Canyon was started by a transient and it could easily, if unchecked, happen again.

One last word:  Chino Valley Independent Fire District Chief Paul Benson, a prime mover in the creation of the local Fire Safe Council and advocate for much improved planning for the Canyon, is retiring to his Montana ranch at the end of August.  Anyone who sees the chief in his remaining days on the job, should thank him profusely for all he has done to improve fire safety district wide and, especially, within Carbon Canyon.

The next meeting of the Council is Wednesday, 4 August at 7 p.m. at the Sleepy Hollow Community Center, 16801 Rosemary Lane in Sleepy Hollow.  These meetings are open to the public and anyone who lives in the Canyon should be at least aware of what is going on with the Council, much less attend meetings when possible.  The work the Council does, with the fairly recent collaboration with Brea included, is invaluable to anyone residing in Carbon Canyon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This morning someone was setting off fireworks/rockets at the bottom of Rosemary lane. Please post this on your blog, everyone in the Canyon needs to be aware.