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NTCFSC Completes 2012 Grant and Receives Follow-On Grant
October 17, 2013 -
PHOTO BY CATHERINE NATALIA ROCHÉ
The beginning of a house fire off Callon Drive in Topanga on Sept. 30.
Some residents have expressed concern about the removal this year of 81 trees along North Topanga Canyon Boulevard (State Highway 27) and major side canyons (Refer to pages 10-11 for more commentary on the issue).
The non-native and hazardous tree removal, a voluntary program for property owners, is only one aspect of the North Topanga Canyon Fire Safe Council (NTCFSC) mandate to provide resources to help Topangans mitigate the risk of wildfire.
Headed by co-presidents Ryan Ulyate and Beth Burnam, they completed the requirements for the 2012 27-EASE (Route 27 Evacuation and Safety Enhancement) grant of $81,850 that was funded by a National Fire Plan Grant from the Cooperative Fire Programs of the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, Pacific Southwest Region through the California Fire Safe Council.
Ulyate and Burnam are happy to report that due to the success of our first grant we have received a follow-on grant for $88,000.
More than 196 applications were received, but only 39 grants were awarded, they said. 27-EASE was the only funded grant in Los Angeles County. Our grant had a matching-funds component as well, and for this we raised more than $230,000, including more than 2,200 hours of volunteer timefar exceeding our target.
PHOTO BY RYAN ULYATE
A diseased pine with a weak root system that was leaning over Topanga Canyon Blvd. was diagnosed by a Los Angeles County Fire Department Forester and removed
Formed in 2010, the NTCFSC is comprised of trained volunteers and residents of the Canyon, who work in collaboration with the L.A. County Fire Department, the California Fire Safe Council and other wildfire experts.
We want to take this opportunity to describe the progress we have made in helping Topanga become a more Fire Adapted Community, Ulyate and Burnam said.
Although Topanga can never be safe from fire, the verdict is in: in recent wildfires, communities that took advance steps to mitigate the risk fared far better than those that did not. We can be safer, be better stewards of the Canyon we love and let its natural scenic beauty thrive.
PHOTO BY RYAN ULYATE
Same area without the pine. Note how oaks underneath filled in the space, revealing the natural beauty and scale of Topanga's native vegetation.
These are all complimentary goals.
The 27-EASE grant was focused on three areas:
1. Wildfire Educationteaching residents about wildfire behavior and how to lessen its effects on home and property.
2. Safer Evacuation and Accessallowing residents to leave and responders to enter more safely in a fire event.
3. Safer Homes and Neighborhoodsshowing residents how to make their homes less vulnerable through a Home Ignition Zone assessment program.
In 2012, the NTCFSC produced a series of four educational public lectures, co-sponsored by T-CEP and the Topanga Library. These lectures, by experts in fire science, were widely promoted through flyers, the Messenger, the Topanga Library, T-CEP, OneTopanga.com, local businesses and numerous community e-mail lists.
The lecture topics were: Fire Ecology and Behavior: understanding wildfire risk in our unique ecosystem; Safer Homes: learning preemptive strategies to lessen the impact of wildfire; Safer Landscaping: creating sustainable and fire-safe landscapes; and A Safer Community: an introduction to the Route 27 Evacuation and Safety Enhancement Project (27-EASE).
The lectures were videotaped, with additional funding from the National Park Service (NPS). They are all available online, creating an ongoing resource to give residents the ability to educate themselves at anytime.
SAFER EVACUATION AND ACCESS
Safer evacuation of Topanga in a wildfire event is of the utmost importance.
This was a conclusion of the Santa Monica Mountains Community Wildfire Protection Plan, which was the result of an extensive and open public process.
Here are the facts:
The central part of the Canyon has not seen wildfire in more than 50 years
There is very dense vegetation, which means there is significant fuel for a fire.
It would take only a few hours for a wind-driven fire to sweep through Topanga
The Canyon population has grown to approximately 10,000 people (most of whom have never experienced a wildfire)
There is one crucial two-lane road (Route 27) in and out
Keeping the roadway clear of obstructions is critical for residents to be able to evacuate, and for first responders to enter the Canyon. Unsafe evacuation conditions contributed to the tragedy of the 1991 Oakland Hills Firestorm where 25 people lost their lives, many trapped in their cars. (Since 1991 Oakland Hills has done a remarkable job of making their community safer.)
In early 2013, the NTCFSC moved forward with a voluntary program to help those who own property on Topanga Canyon Boulevard and major side canyons to remove large-scale, non-native, highly flammable vegetation. We found that the majority of property owners contacted understood the issue and were interested in our aid, leading to the removal of 81 hazardous trees. It is important to emphasize that our grant respects the rights and privacy of property owners. It is a voluntary program. The removal of hazardous vegetation is done only if the owner wants it. There were a few who did not wish to have any vegetation removed. We respected their wishes. We understand that what people legally do on their property is their decision to make, not ours and not anyone elses.
AESTHETIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS
We have also paid great attention to environmental impact. In some cases, where erosion could be an issue, a biologist was consulted.
Numerous large pines are near the end of their life cycle with the drought and bark beetle infestations hastening their demise. We have assisted property owners in the removal of several dying or dead pines.
This is an ongoing issue, as more pines are dying in Topanga.
The good news is that under most of the removed trees there were already well-rooted oaks growing. With no competition for light, water and space these will mature into large, beautiful, less fire-prone trees. Some property owners are also supplementing this process by replanting with additional native species.
Many believe that the Canyon is made more beautiful by removing vegetation that is not naturally suited for our environment. It is gratifying to see how our Mediterranean Ecosystem restores itself to its natural state. The natural beauty of our oak woodlands is one of Topangas most unique and scenic assets.
SAFER HOMES AND NEIGHBORHOODS
During the summer the NTCFSC designed and implemented a home ignition zone assessment program. In this program, trained volunteer assessors engaged in conversations with property owners about what they can do to make their homes less fire-prone in a wildfire event.
To date, 19 property owners in the East Hillside, Will Geer Road and the Top O Topanga neighborhoods have participated. Assessments are ongoing and we are training new volunteers to make this program available to more homeowners.
Making their home less vulnerable to ignition is one of the best things residents can do to mitigate the effect of wildfire.
Every home that is safer contributes to a safer neighborhood.
Please visit ntcfsc.org for links to all four of our lectures and to learn how you can make your home less vulnerable to wildfire.
As we enter one of the driest and most dangerous wildfire seasons on record, we owe it to our loved ones and neighbors to educate ourselves and help make Topanga a more Fire Adapted Community.
VOLUNTEERS MAKE IT POSSIBLE
We want to thank our volunteers who put in more than 2,000 hours of their valuable time. We also want to thank the California Fire Safe Council, the Los Angeles County Fire Department, the National Park Service, Southern California Edison, T-CEP and the Topanga Library (part of the Los Angeles Public Library system) for working to help create a safer Topanga.
If you are interested in volunteering, there are two more Fire Safe Councils that could be organized here, one in the Fernwood Area (the South Topanga Canyon Fire Safe Council) and one in Old Topanga Canyon (the West Topanga Canyon Fire Safe Council).
If you live in one of those areas and are interested in organizing, please dont hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Wed be willing to help you get started. Its a lot of work, but its worth it.