By Jazz Piatt
The Santa Clarita Valley is continuing to work toward recovery from the effects of the Sand Fire, which engulfed more than 40,000 acres this past July.
The fire that forced California to declare a state of emergency, caused: 2 fatalities, destroyed 18 homes, and risked the safety of nearly 10,000 homes and The Placerita Canyon Nature Center.
Ranger Frank Hoffman, Placerita’s recreation services supervisor, says, “Mother nature is a very fickle beast. Man can do whatever he or she so chooses, but Mother Nature always has the final say.”
Nearly half a year later, Placerita is still recovering from the fire.
The Forest Service of the Angeles National Forest issued Order NO. 01-16-09 which was signed on October 11th.
In the event of heavy rainfall, these upcoming winter months are calling for more precautions for public safety and resource protection, as an effect of the fire.
Rachel Smith, the Acting Forest Supervisor, issues in the order that they, “expect the closure area to need about one year to recover from the devastating effects of the Sand Fire.”
The nature center’s Los Pinetos Trail, Waterfall Trail and Walker Ranch were seriously destroyed by the flames.
Despite the distance between Sand Canyon and Placerita, Hoffman says that the nature center was on alert when they first found out about the fire, “we work and live in a fire regime, we are always expecting fires.”
Landslides, falling boulders, ash and dust all pose a risk to the safety and health of hikers.
A combination of clean up, significant rainfall, and authorization from the county must occur before reopening the closed trails per Los Angeles County Code 17.04.350.
The Walker Cabin, and nature center building and animals that reside there narrowly escaped fire damage by 1/3 of a mile in a true easterly direction.
Before the fire arrived, the canyons filled with smoke–posing a threat to the animals that live outside of the building.
Hoffman made the decision to bring the animals inside the building, and by Saturday afternoon on July 23rd, was later told by management to evacuate the building.
Hoffman explains that he, “had the luxury of time to plan and evacuate.”
With the help of the nature center staff, other parks and facilities–Hoffman was able to relocate the animals to Vasquez Rocks, Placerita’s sister natural area that has experience with animals. He was also able to pack up momentos, taxidermy animals and other irreplaceable items.
By 8pm Sunday, an order to secure the building, and clear nearby brush was placed.
“They were concerned the building would be lost,” says Hoffman.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, authorities decided to hit the fire with retardant and water nonstop for roughly 45 minutes, even using fixed wing aircrafts and helicopters until they could stop it from advancing.
The Sand fire was fully contained on August 3, 13 days after it erupted—and the nature center reopened nearly a week after they received clearance.
While Placerita has a great deal of time to recover, the nature center is grateful for the number of volunteers they have received, and support from the community.
This past September, 40 volunteers from the SCV Trail Users and Hands On Santa Clarita led fire recovery efforts in Placerita by building eight check dams and cleaning out 1,000 feet of drainage ditch that run through the nature center.