Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Central And South Coast Mountain Slopes Stripped By Brush Fires Pose Flash Flood, Mudslide Risk

(Photo by Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire Department
A DC-10 air tanker makes a drop on the Whittier bursh fire, in Santa Barbara County

It seems like it was just yesterday, but it’s been months since the flames of the 18,000 acre Whittier brush fire roared through the Santa Ynez Mountain range in Santa Barbara County.

While cooler, moister weather and even the chance of some rain later this week is easing the brush fire threat, it’s opening the door to a new danger: Flash floods and debris flows.

Rob Lewin, the Director of the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Services, says they are looking at a couple of concerns. Topping the list is the safety of people who live in, or near burn areas in, and below mountain canyons.

There’s special concern about the Whittier, and Alamo brush fire burn areas, as well as areas hit by blazes in past years. The Emergency Management official says they are concerned that flash flood, or debris flows from burn areas could close Highway 101, or Highway 154. And, there’s also the threat to Lake Cachuma and Gibralatar Reservoir, with debris flows contaminating key water sources.

In Ventura County, it was just a few weeks ago that the Vista Fire burned around 90 acres of rugged slopes off of Highway 33 northwest of Ventura. Because it stripped slopes so close to the start of raining season, it has the potential to create problems. Jeff Pratt is Director of Ventura County’s Public Works Agency. He says other potential flooding spots in the county if there is heavy, sustained rain include parts of Conejo Creek, areas of the Santa Clara River, and spots near Ojai. He says the county’s team is already geared up to deal with big storms.

Santa Barbara County Emergency Service Director Rob Lewin says just like during peak brush fire season, people in potential at risk areas need to be prepared, which means signing up for county alerts via text messages and reverse 911, and having a family evacuation plan.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
Related Stories