This past summer…
It was a difficult year for Santa Clarita Valley residents impacted by the dangerous wildland fires that burned through several of our communities. In all, 19 homes were destroyed and many home owners were left with the aftermath and cleanup of ash, retardant, and debris that heavily impacted their homes and properties. Most tragically, we are left with the sadness of a resident who lost his life trying to escape the fast moving flames of the Sand Fire. As your Assistant Fire Chief, the impact of the Sand Fire, the Sage Fire, the Calgrove Fire, and numerous other smaller fires, will remain with me as I know it will for each of you living in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Current threats for winter…
As we move into the winter season with the possibility of rains, I want each resident, especially those living in the burn areas of our recent fires to understand the new threat that faces you, your family and our community.
The burned hillsides have been significantly compromised and now have no root structure to hold them in place. With even a small rainfall those hills have the potential for slope failure thus entrapping residents. In addition, a mud and debris flow may move structures and vehicles, boulders and other hazards in its forward path affecting many more homes.
What the Incident Command team will do…
Prior to each predicted rain event, an interagency incident command team will gather together to discuss the potential threat and make decisions to ensure public safety. The Incident Command team will include Los Angeles County Fire Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and Los Angeles County Department of Public Works. This team will be working in collaboration with the City of Santa Clarita. Collectively, these agencies bring significant resources, highly trained personnel, and emergency equipment ready to quickly respond to small scale or catastrophic events. In addition, the incident command team relies on their many years of combined disaster management experience when responding to emergencies or when implementing evacuation orders.
Incident commanders will assess the threat, and should the risk to life and property be deemed high, you will be asked to evacuate your home. The criterion used to evaluate the risk includes but is not limited to:
The potential for slope failure
The amount of debris, sediment, boulders and other hazards in the path
The amount of forecasted rain and thunder cells
The amount of soil saturation
Activity in the canyon, forest, and mountainous areas
The capacity of the debris basins and the rate of fill based on predicted rainfall
Providing for the safety of emergency personnel responding in the area
The need to provide quick access to fire response vehicles and emergency equipment
What we ask you to do…
Please evacuate if you are asked to leave. We understand that leaving your home for an undisclosed amount of time is very inconvenient. Evacuation orders will only be implemented if the evaluated risk factors are high. And it will be our highest priority to allow entry back into your home as soon as it is safe. Please understand, should a slope failure or mud flow occur, it may take firefighters and first responder time to reach you. If you do not evacuate, you may be putting your life and the life of your family at risk.
Also, it is important that you carefully watch your surroundings. Should you see mud and debris flowing from the hillsides, you should self-evacuate and call 9-1-1. A slope failure can occur even if there is no rain. Many will remember the slope failure that occurred in La Conchita in January, 2005. This mudslide occurred after a rain event ended, killing ten people and destroying several homes.
Please stay informed and connected to official sources of information. Sign up for Nixle alerts and notifications with the agencies below. And of course, follow your local news on radio and television.
Emergency Notification Sources
NIXLE: Messages from LA County Fire and Sheriff’s Department – Text your zip code to 888777
Nixle: Messages from the City of Santa Clarita. TEXT SCEMERGENCY to 888777
ALERT LA: Mass notification system from LA County Office of Emergency Management – Enter your cell phone and email address. Visit – https://www.lacounty.gov/emergency/alert-la.
TWITTER ALERTS: From LA County Fire Department @LACoFDPIO
I encourage you to visit your local Los Angeles County Fire Station if you have any questions or concerns. Please pick up a copy of the READY! SET! GO! Guide which will help you plan ahead for evacuations and emergencies. Thank you for your cooperation in the upcoming months.