Burn-area residents prep for more rainfall

TUJUNGA, Calif. Residents who live just below Deukmejian Wilderness Park on the border of Glendale and La Crescenta know they are in a vulnerable spot.

The vegetation was burned out by the Station Fire, leaving the park grounds bare, and residents know that the mudslides can start coming at any time.

Glendale resident Stacy Gustafson is hoping for the best this weekend hoping that her neighborhood will be spared from mudslides and debris flow, but she says her family is prepared to go if they have to.

"We just have things all ready to go. It's a little unnerving but you get used to it because it's your way of life now, so we have certain things ready to go. They're not in the car but they're right inside the garage door and they'll go as soon as someone says to leave," said Gustafson.

Gustafson and her neighbors have been warned that they could face serious flooding and mudslides for the next three to five years as a result of the Station Fire that burned for weeks from August to October.

"Some of the people that were here for the '78 disasters say it was a couple of years after the fire when the hillside gave way and there were trees and cars just tumbling down," described Gustafson.

La Canada already experienced a post-Station Fire mudslide in early November. In Gustafson's neighborhood, city crews are staying on top of the Dunsmore Debris Basin to keep it clear just in case the hillsides above come tumbling down again.

"They've said they put cameras up in the debris basins. They say if the debris basins get five percent full, then they will come up and empty them so during the night, every night practically, we've had trucks going by and we always wave because we're so glad they're here emptying out the debris basins," said Gustafson.

There are K-rails and sandbags at the base of the basin to stop the debris and slow the flow of any runoff.

La Canada-Flintridge is also getting a significant amount of rainfall and all the hillsides are very muddy, creating very dangerous conditions on the road.

If you plan on driving into portions of the Angeles National Forest, you might have to change those plans.

The L.A. County Department of Public Works announced that based on the stormy conditions, it is closing all county roads within the Station Fire burn areas. So at 11:59 p.m. Friday, officials will close Angeles Crest Highway, Big Tujunga Canyon Road and Upper Tujunga Canyon road. Only emergency vehicles and DWP personnel will be permitted to get through.

The Angeles Forest Highway was blocked to traffic during Monday's rain storm.

"It was closed for quite a while of course due to road repair and guardrail repair. The fires really did a number on the Crest and we want to make sure that motorists are safe when they're traveling through the Crest," said Saul Gomez of the California Highway Patrol.

Deeper into the Angeles Crest Highway, officials are concerned about the burned hillsides caked with mud and rocks. The rocks could come tumbling down to the roadway, and the mudflows could also come crashing down onto the roadway which could be dangerous for drivers moving through there, if not tragic.

Drivers who use the Crest from time to time had this to say about the closure of the highway and other burn areas.

"If there's a danger of rock slides or mudslides, I think that's for the safety of the public, so I'd have to agree with them on that, and I don't know what the situation is now, but with all the forest burned off, I'm sure there's going to be a lot of mudslides this year, this season," said John Petriel of Alhambra.

"We want everything for safety factors and shut it down if the weather is bad," said Stella Petriel of Alhambra.

"Normally, it's already dangerous as it is, so with all the extra mudflows and things coming down it'll provide a lot of safety," said John Lee of Monterey Park.

"As of now we don't have an anticipated time of opening for those roadways. It all depends on the weather conditions," explained Gomez.

Long-time Tujunga residents say that they will be keeping a close eye on the weather conditions for road safety as well as house safety.

Alexander Waintrub has taken extra precautions to try to prevent any damage to his Haines Canyon home. The hills surrounding his Tujunga property have been left blackened and barren by the massive Station Fire, putting the entire area at risk for potential mudslides.

"Well, we are a little concerned, but it's not too much because we feel that the channels in the area should handle the situation within reason," said Waintrub. "Of course, if there is a major catastrophe, I doubt that anybody could do anything about it, but that's par for the course for anybody living around here."

County officials have made sure that the channels and catch basins are clear and ready for when Mother Nature lets loose.

"It's a little concerning just because there's six miles of mountain that may come down, but I was here for the '75 fire so I'm not too concerned," said Samantha Harris of Tujunga.

Some K-rails and sandbags have been strategically placed to divert any runoff, but so far, there's been no sign of any serious trouble. Most residents say they don't expect any trouble, but they also know that could change in an instant.

"It if does come down, we're pretty much locked in. There's no way to go. So, we're pretty much stocking up on hay and dog food and food and water, and that's it," said another Tujunga resident Nicolle Maggie.

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