SCV Outdoor Report: Aftermath Of A Wildfire: It Ain’t Over ‘Till It’s Over

SCV Outdoor Report: Aftermath Of A Wildfire: It Ain’t Over ‘Till It’s Over

5 December 2008

published by

USA — What happens after the flames die down, the smoke dissipates and the news-crews go home

It started three weeks ago tonight, sometime between 10 and 11 p.m, in the San Gabriel Mountains just north of Symar.  By the time the Sayre fire was 98% contained 6 days later, it had burned 17 square miles and destroyed 487 homes.  One of those areas burned was Wilson Canyon Park, a 240 acre park located just north of Olive View Hospital. 


Wilson Canyon Park as of 3 December 08

  My grandma had a saying, “Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.”  And sure enough, after every fire, curious folk come by to take a look, sometimes ignoring the “Park Temporarily Closed” signs.  For those of you who were wise enough to wait until the park re-opened last week, thank you.

I’d like to spend the next few weeks talking about what happens after a fire is “put out”.  This week, I’ll talk about why “it ain’t over until it’s over.  There are three reasons why we keep visitors out. 

We need to make sure the fire is OUT.  After aground fire, “hot spots” can remain in the leaf litter or the roots just beneath the surface.  These can flare up again.


Close-up view of the ground fire in Wilson Canyon.

We need time to scope out the area for hazards and remove them.  A tree limb weakened by fire can come down unexpectedly on a hiker.


This view of Whitney Canyon in 2004 shows how a burnt tree branch can remain a hazard after a fire.

The surviving animals need time to relocate.  Those animals who hunkered down underground or fled to a safe haven now need to move to an area where they can find what they need, since there is little food or cover left.  We don’t want them wasting their remaining energy fleeing from us.  (That’s also why we don’t put out food – so the animals will relocate.)

I remember explaining this once to a young man who wanted to go exploring in a restricted area.  When I spoke of the hazards, I could see that I wasn’t getting through to him.  I sounded JUST LIKE HIS MOTHER!  But when I asked him to imagine what it would be like to be a hungry and frightened animal, desperately searching for cover from a human intruder, he finally understood.  He stepped up and became what we are all called to be – stewards of the land and all the creatures that live upon it.

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