12 January 2014

Carbon Canyon Vegetation Reduction Program

The Chino Valley Fire District, with funds provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has been engaged in a long-term project to reduce vegetation that provide fuels for fires near residential areas with Carbon Canyon.  Removing this vegetation through wide fire breaks is an important component of a comprehensive fire protection program engaged in by the district.  It also represents a continuing evolution in fire prevention and fire fighting planning over the years.

The accompanying aerial map, developed by department inspector Kevin Smith, identifies the work zone starting on the east at Vellano and moving its way behind the Western Hills Oaks and Mountain View Estates subdivisions on the southern side of Carbon Canyon Road and then southwestward towards Sleepy Hollow. 

This Chino Valley Fire District aerial map, created by department inspector Kevin Smith, shows the Carbon Canyon Vegetation Reduction Program work zone in yellow, blue and green (these colors indicating work completed and in progress), as well as a thin red line snaking largely horizontally across the map that represents the reach of the November 2008 Freeway Complex Fire, which encircled Sleepy Hollow yet suddenly shifted before the community was consumed.
The zone then crosses to the north side of the state highway at the county line and moving northward from Sleepy Hollow to the west end of what will be the Forestar Canyon Hills development, a 76-unit housing project just started off Canyon Hills Road, and then up and around the eastern flank of the St. Joseph's Hill of Hope religious institution and the western edge of the Oak Tree Downs subdivision.

Those areas in yellow represent locations in which work has been completed, including those sections near Vellano and above Western Hills Oaks, along Carbon Canyon Road between Mountain View Estates and Sleepy Hollow and most of the southern boundary of the latter and, on the north side of the Canyon, a section next to Sleepy Hollow, as well as the areas around Oak Tree Downs.

There are still areas to be completed, specifically the southwest corner of Sleepy Hollow, where the terrain is steep and difficult to access and some of the territory between St. Joseph's Hill of Hope and Forestar Canyon Hills, where the folks at the Hill of Hope have done their own intensive fire break work.

Also of note is the thin red line snaking through the map:  this is the extent to which the Freeway Complex Fire of November 2008 made its advances into this portion of Carbon Canyon.  Obviously, the fire came extremely close to portions of Western Hills Parks, the Mountain View Estates tract, all of Sleepy Hollow, and came quite close to the Hill of Hope's compound, which is along the San Bernardino/Los Angeles county line.  The San Bernardino County line is the thick dark one at the edge of this detail.

While this presence of the red line showing the incursion of that massive fire demonstrates the need for this vegetation reduction project, and all manner of other means to reduce fuel, it should also be remembered that the fire abruptly changed course just as it bore down on the upper reaches of Sleepy Hollow.  Residents remembered fire fighting personnel getting ready to either leave the area, because the fire was not defendable, or looking to defend to the extent possible before pulling back, when there was a sudden change in winds that pushed the flames in a different direction.

Moreover, sparks can travel a mile or more and create other fires, especially in high wind episodes like that found in the Santa Ana wind-aided conflagration of November 2008.  This means that the best fire breaks possible may not protect communities in the canyon from being consumed by fire.  That said, this project is a worthy effort to do what can be done to provide a line of defense against wildfires.

Given 2013's infamy as having, at 3.89 inches of rain in Los Angeles, the lowest rainfall year since official records were begun in 1877, and the fact that we've been ensnared in a long-term drought pattern, continued efforts at fire protection are essential.  Because, a fire like that of 2008 and 1990 and 1978 and 1958 and 1929 (and others) will occur again within Carbon Canyon.

Adding more houses, like the 76-unit Forestar Canyon Hills and the last phases of Elements on the north side of Western Hills Golf Course, as well as future projects like the 24-unit tract that has been approved east of Western Hills below Carbon Canyon Road and possible approvals for the 162-unit Madrona project and the unsubmitted tract south of Carbon Canyon Road between Sleepy Hollow and Mountain View Estates, all raise further issues.

These include more people to evacuate, more area to cover for firefighting personnel, more water to use for fire suppression, and more buildings that could burn.  This is why further large-scale development in Carbon Canyon, along with traffic impacts, loss of rapidly disappearing native habitat, pollution, and others, is simply not good public policy.  Carbon Canyon is an extreme fire zone and adding potentially 350-400 more units will be, for that and the other reasons given, does not improve the quality of life here, it diminishes it.

No comments: