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Mudslides could be ‘devastating’

City and county officials will help to fortify properties as winter approaches.

September 24, 2009|By Megan O’Neil

With the Station fire 94% contained, city, county and federal officials are now having to redirect their attention and resources to another potentially devastating disaster — mudslides.

Speaking at the La Cañada Flintridge City Council meeting on Monday, Los Angeles County Fire Department Battalion Chief Steve Martin said many of the same La Cañada residents whose homes were threatened by the fire just two weeks ago must now brace themselves for the threat of erosion and flooding.

“Because of the vegetation and because of the watershed we lost, any types of rains this season, from moderate to severe, will be devastating due to the amount of mud and debris flow,” Martin said. “The history of this area is that there are major fires and they are followed by major floods. And those major floods are something people often don’t associate with fires. Floods can be just as devastating, and we can lose just as many residences and have just as many catastrophes.”

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Edward Hitti, the city’s director of public works, said his department has been in constant communication with Los Angeles County engineers to assess the damage and to pinpoint areas at high risk for flooding. The county, working in conjunction with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), has already identified at least 60 homes in La Cañada Flintridge that could be threatened if Southern California receives substantial rainfall this winter as predicted by meteorologists, Hitti said.

County officials are in the process of contacting and meeting with those homeowners to provide engineering advice and to start implementing mitigating measures, Hitti added.

“I believe the communication has been excellent and there is no complaint from the residents,” Hitti said. “[Property owners] do have some questions, and they have been getting the county to go back and clarify, but overall it has been going really well. Some of the owners have already started implementing some of the recommendations.”

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