ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST – The top concern in a management plan on Southern California’s national forests is the fire danger that exists where neighborhoods meet forest lands.
The Angeles National Forest, along with the Los Padres, Cleveland and San Bernardino forests, were deemed by Congress to be among the 10 most threatened forests, based on the severity of the fire danger.
“The four Southern California forests include more than 3.5 million acres with thousands of structures in or around their borders that are threatened by wildland fire,” according to the plan.
Locally, the Angeles borders Santa Clarita Valley neighborhoods to the north in Saugus, the south in Newhall and the east in Canyon Country.
“In most parts of the country, distance is not a problem; the forests are in isolated areas away from population,” said Matt Mathes, a spokesman for the Angeles.
Los Angeles County firefighters have long viewed this “urban interface” with concern because of the chance that a forest fire could sweep through neighborhoods.
And, according to the forest-management plan, the forests are located in one of the driest, most fire-prone areas in the nation.
The situation has been compounded by decades of fire-suppression practices that have resulted in unnaturally dense stands of trees and accumulation of brush and other flammable fuels in the area, according to the report.
“Throughout the 20th century, the Forest Service suppressed fires because that’s what the public wanted,”
Mathes said. “After World War II, we gained a lot of aircraft used in the war, adopted military organizational tactics and had a lot of gung-ho people who considered the fire the enemy that we could defeat.
“Unfortunately, we did that in an ecosystem that nature designed to burn. Because of the old brush, fires have been burning increasingly bigger and hotter in the last couple of decades.”
Forest officials plan to destroy some of that brush and remove it, then conduct controlled burns to restore the ecosystem. The process could take a decade to 20 years.
The plan is available online at www.fs.fed.us/r5/scfpr/projects/1mp and is subject to appeal until June 20.
“The comment period is over, but people can appeal the plan with constructive suggestions,” Mathes said. “Did we make any errors, miss a scientific study, draw a false conclusion? Let us know.”