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Major storm preparations under way in burn areas

January 15, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
As Southern California braces for three big storms next week, heavy rains could spell big trouble for homeowners living near areas charred by last year's wildfires.In the La Canada Flintridge area, the risk of flooding has residents hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Works workers have visited hundreds of individual homes to talk to homeowners and to show them the best ways to protect their properties. These residents are looking at what could be back to back to back storms, so they say they are packed and ready to evacuate if necessary.

Los Angeles County Public Works crews shored up a drainage inlet behind a home along the burn area in La Canada Friday.

There are 28 debris basins within the boundaries of the Station Fire. Crews have cleared all of them to 100 percent capacity in anticipation of a series of storms expected to hit next week.

"If we have a single storm system that comes in, if there is debris that ends up in debris basins up in the foothills, once the storm moves out we have an opportunity to clean them out," said Bob Spencer, public affairs manager, L.A. County Dept. of Public Works. "When we have back-to-back storms like this, that makes that task so much more difficult."

Spencer said all county roads within the Station Fire burn area will close to traffic just after midnight Sunday morning.

In neighborhoods skirting the burned-out hillsides, K-rails are already in place. Sandbags stretch along property lines and residents try to stay optimistic.

"We've already evacuated a couple times so this one seems to be a little worse, but, you know, just hoping for the best," said La Canada resident Valerie Williams.

Williams said the county marked several homes on her street with blue paint -- those are the ones slated for evacuation.

When the rain starts to fall residents here say they will be prepared to leave.

"We've packed up our stuff so that we can get out quickly if we need to," said La Canada resident Melody Bowers. "We've been through three fires, we go when they tell us."

"The sheriff's [deputies] are right on it, so when they come knocking, we leave. We don't wait," said Valerie Williams.

Just a few months after the Station Fire, residents say the storm preparations have become old hat -- an "old hat" that they may be wearing for several years to come.

The Dept. of Public Works says evacuations will be ordered if more than a half-inch of rain falls per hour.