“Sierra Madre Future Concerns: Fires and Mudslides” for Beacon Media Newspapers

May 2008

The usually low-attended monthly Sierra Madre Fire Safe Council meeting filled City Council chambers Monday night as fire officials and residents explained the details of last week’s fire and their future concerns.

Brush abatement is still an issue and the fire department’s brush abatement program began May 1st, as an announcement coincidentally sent out late last week pointed out, but mudslides are also a concern once rain saturates the newly-burned land.

“I cannot stress enough the need to prepare yourselves and prepare your property for the coming rains,” said Sierra Madre Director of Public Works Bruce Inman. “The city will do everything we can to assist.”

In conjunction with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works and other agencies, Sierra Madre officials will identify homes and infrastructure that they think are at risk.

“We’ll be offering engineering advice to those houses,” said LADPW employee Chris Stone. “We typically hand out a homeowner’s guide. These are temporary measures [and] we highly advise that you look at what we’re providing and you make the decision if you want to implement it or not, but it comes with high recommendations.”

Stone also stressed that the agencies will depend on input from the community so if homeowners think their property is at risk and do not receive a visit from engineers, they are urged to call Public Works at (626) 458-6145 and set up an appointment for a consultation.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Works will also provide sandbags to the city that will be distributed at a to-be-determined location. Each resident will receive 25 sandbags but those who want more must have an advice form signed by an engineer.

“The reason we do that is sometimes people deploy devices around their homes and make the situation even worse; they start blocking flows and deflecting flows and impacting your neighbors, and we want to make sure it’s a very coordinated effort,” said Stone.

Part of the effort will include able-bodied volunteers who don’t live in the fire-affected areas to sign up to assist and fill up sandbags when rain arrives.

“The people in the affected areas are going to need to protect their own homes so we need volunteers who can leave their own homes to come and help us,” said Inman.

Alert systems such as mass phone calls and text messaging were also discussed and will be considered as a way to notify citizens during a fire.

“I think this is an eye-opening experience for a lot of people,” said Pasadena emergency management coordinator Lisa Derderian at her office Monday. “Number one, the importance of brush clearance and defensible space because that saved many homes; Number two, disaster preparedness. Many people I spoke to, especially in our city, were saying that they’d really think twice if they had to evacuate about what they would take.”

The next Fire Safe Council meeting will be held June 2nd in Sierra Madre City Council Chambers at 7 p.m. and will address the hazards of fire embers.


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