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Station Fire creates potential mudslides

September 2, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Even as the Station Fire keeps burning, there are already concerns about what happens once it's out. Specifically, with so much brush burned, a lot of foothill homes could be vulnerable to mudslides when the rain comes. Earlier in the week, flames were seen burning right up to some of the homes in La Crescenta. The folks that live in those homes are now probably relieved to see that the flames are out. But what is left behind, are steep hillsides that are stripped of vegetation and they are very close to the homes. That is a dangerous combination when rainy season is right around the corner. It was just two days earlier when La Crescenta resident, Drew Arrendondo, feared for the fire that was burning directly behind his home.

Firefighters fought back the flames, the house survived, and the Arrendondo family returned to their home. But the steep burned out hillside behind their home now poses a new threat for the family.

"I'm a little bit nervous for when it's actually going to rain, if we get rain, to see what happens because we could have some serious rock and mudslides here," said Arrendondo.

Mudslides and debris flows are common in burn areas during the rainy season. With little or no vegetation left to anchor the soil, hillsides can fail with disastrous consequences.

In Arrendondo's backyard, erosion is already underway. Arredondo said that lawn piles of dirt and stone came down shortly after the flames went out, and that's without any rain hitting the slope.

"If it burned clean behind your house, you're going to need to get some sandbags come the rainy season," explained Nathan Judy, U.S. Forest Service.

Judy explained to Eyewitness News that now is the time for homeowners who live near the fire-stripped slopes to start preparing for possible slides.

The Arrendondos may catch a break-the fire that burned their hillside was deliberately set by firefighters designed to remove some of the brush, but not all of it.

"That plant is going to start replenishing itself a lot quicker than if the fire raged through there and burned the root systems, and burned the plant basically to the ground," said Judy.

But come heavy rains, there are no guarantees, and many of the homeowners may find that they're out of the frying pan but into the mire.

Once the Station Fire is out, the U.S. Forest Service will dispatch what it calls "Bear Teams," which stands for Burn Area Emergency Recovery teams. Their job is to scout out some of the fire damage spots that are at most risk or erosion and try to figure out some way to either stop it or at least slow it down.

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