SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS FUND, 401 West Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360 contact@samofund.org 805-370-2341

How are the Mountains?

Devastated by the Woolsey fire, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational Area is now assessing the damage so that the planning process for re-building and restoration can begin.  

As of December 11, 2018

The Woolsey Fire has burned more acres within Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area than any other fire in recorded history. The fire’s footprint currently covers 96,949 acres which includes 88% of the National Park Service land in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Around 44% of the total National Recreation Area burned including state parks and other public lands including the 67-mile long Backbone trail. Since then, hazards have increased a hundred-fold and your safety is the National Park Service’s major priority.

The following major structures burned:

  • Most of Western Town at Paramount Ranch, a National Historic Register site, including one park residence.
    • The “Church” and “Train Station” remain but their condition is unknown at this time.
  • The 1926 Peter Strauss Ranch home /Harry Miller House was significantly damaged. The bridge on Mulholland Highway and Troutdale adjacent to Peter Strauss Ranch was destroyed and is not passable.
  • Most of the joint National Park Service/UCLA La Kretz Research Center, but not the new laboratory building
  • The Rocky Oaks ranger residence and attached archives building
  • The Arroyo Sequit ranger residence and barn

Friday, November 16th, the SAMO Fund launched the Paramount Project to rebuild Paramount Ranch. We have received an outpouring of support from the public on the rebuild of this famous site, and are committed to telling the story of film history and the magic of movie-making at Paramount Ranch. This site is our first priority for rebuild in the park and hope that it will help bring in more support for other needs within the park after its completion.

While fire is a natural part of the circle of life within an ecosystem, too much fire can cause permanent damage to the landscape. Historically, it is believed that coastal Southern California only had a fire about every 100 years, but current fires are happening more than every 20 years. This can allow invasive weeds and grasses, also known as “flashy fuels”, to establish themselves and cause the landscape to become more prone to wind-driven fires. NPS biologist Mark Mendelsohn was quoted saying, “Most ecologists say it will take 10 to 20 years for the Santa Monica Mountains to look the way they did before the Woolsey fire came through. Of course, that depends on rainfall and drought.”

Large animals like deer, coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions typically cover lots of ground and may have been able to escape the flames. The smaller animals, including reptiles and amphibians have a harder time escaping and tend to try and burrow underground, so we are not sure how many survived. 11 out of 13 mountain lions we have been tracking appear to be alive and moving. P-74 and P-64 did not survive.  All four collared bobcats appear to be alive and moving, though we are unsure of their condition as the entire home ranges of all four have burned. The best way to help these highly resourceful critters is to give them space and leave them alone; DO NOT leave out food and water that will cause them to become dependent on humans.

On November 16th Rancho Sierra Vista re-opened and trails within this area can be used again. Cheeseboro and Palo Comado are also open. There are several known and unknown hazards that exist after a fire of this magnitude like weakened trees, holes in the trails, and damage to roads and structures. The National Park Service has spent the last month assessing damage and has found the following:

Roughly 30 miles of the Backbone Trail and many miles of other trails burned over, along with support facilities at trailheads such as toilets, barrier fencing, and informational signs.

Along trails themselves, the fire burned wooden bridges, steps and drain bars in several locations, a major trail retaining wall in Newton Canyon, and three major bridges in the upper Trancas and Zuma Canyons. But the most widespread fire-related damage to trails is the rockfall and rock/soil debris that will continue to fall onto trails long after the fire.

In other front country locations, burned recreational facilities include toilets, picnic tables, and amphitheater seating.

The Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority trails that are open are Temescal, Franklin Canyon, and Wilacre.

There’s no other way to put it: this was a devastating fire. We ask for your patience as NPS staff work to rebuild, refortify and reconstruct our beautiful park.  If a site is closed, please do not enter for your own safety.

 

Nov. 20, 2018: Park Service and Santa Monica Mountains Fund personnel return to Paramount Ranch to survey damage from the Woolsey Fire. In the foreground is what remains of the west side of the “main street” of Western Town.  Barriers are already in place to stop the flow of hazardous material into nearby streams in the event of heavy rains.  Assessment is underway to determine when the area can be safely opened for public use.  Photo courtesy of the Santa Monica Mountains Fund.

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