Thursday, March 26, 2009

A New Coat of Paint

The fence has been painted and the planter replanted out in front of Oakridge. There is a rumor that the debris removal process is ahead of schedule. Looking over the fence I can only see that the crew is working far away. Everything close has been scraped off.

Signs of Life

The blackened pine trees are showing signs that they will recover.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

View From Stetson Park

Clean up has begun!

Within a day or two heavy equipment and big dump trucks could be seen inside working. One machine went around cutting the pieces into manageable sizes, another pushed the pieces into giant piles. Yet another picked up the piles and put them into the dump trucks.
They have cleaned the spaces closest to the wall near the temporary office and are working away.

Complete Access Closure

The city promised to close the park to all on March 4th. Additional security was hired, by March 9th the temporary offices were moved out of the park and a couple of gates were installed. A day or so later Loretta and I drove up to the gate and tried to get in. The security guard wouldn't let us in.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Last Chance!

We attended meetings with Commissioner Poizner, Mayor Villaraigosa, Supervisor Yaroslavsky, and Councilman Alarcon. There were just so many questions. FEMA, SBA, the state's Office of Emergency Management, LA City's Emergency Management Team, the insurance companies, and many volunteers came to these meetings. After much debate it has been decided that the City of Los Angeles would "be the lead agency in debris removal".

Those residents that haven't already done so would have one last chance to come into the park and sift through their ashes to recover any of their remaining property. What an ugly job.

Nothing better to do

Limited Access

On about November 18th we were given a week to decide what we were going to do with our possessions and how we were going to live. We couldn't live in our home. There are many companies that would be happy to help us with our stuff. I didn't realize how difficult it would be to make this choice. As we were up against a deadline I had to choose, so I did.

We moved from hotel to hotel until we rented an apartment in Sylmar. Where we remain today.

It turns out that the park wasn't closed until March 8th, 2009. We really could have used additional time to make better choices.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Island Oasis

We catch sight of some houses including ours, that look mostly undamaged due to the willfull heroism of firemen from LA City, LA County, and the City of Burbank. Fire Captain David Yonan is on a long list of firemen and their units that made their stand in front of, and saved, our home. Thank you.

Street after street

Street after street the remains of neighbors homes and their possessions, echo what was there before. There is a strong sulphurous smell in the air. A slight breeze draws moving lines of ash on the ground, stirring up dust devils that dance across the streets. I found the stillness and silence to be profound. A place abandoned.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Looks can be deceiving

This home, at first sight, appeared unburned. The grief on the owners face told a different story. The fire had swept in from behind and underneath and burned from the inside out.

Inside Oakridge

Evacuation Center

The gym at Sylmar High was our designated evacuation and meeting place. As we arrived there we saw many familiar faces, our neighbors, TV news people, and our local politicians, Mayor Villaraigosa and Council member Richard Alarcón. We were directed to register with many official and not so official groups, (FEMA, SBA, Red Cross . . .). Then after much angst and waiting in one line, then another, we were ushered onto a city bus and driven to Oakridge. We were shocked by what we saw.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Total Devastation

For the next couple of days the terms "total devastation" and "crime scene" were heard over and over. A spectacular video clip of flames rising and spinning into the air, consuming what were clearly visible outlines of familiar homes played on the news, confirming our neighborhood had burned to the ground. Then brief glimpses on TV, later, an official list. Ours did not burn.

The City arranged for Metro buses to take us in, escorted by police, to see our places. We had no idea.

Mandatory Evacuation

During the night of Friday, November 14, 2008 the orange glow of a wild fire was called to our attention by our neighbors who were knocking on our door and pointing to the east into the foothills that surround us. However our concerns were tempered by a false alarm we had only a month earlier and our confidence in the well known skills of our fire departments.

Then, just a couple of hours later, the police were at our door with word of a "mandatory evacuation". The flames were clearly closer, the orange glow turned to flames, smoke and ash were in the air.

Loretta, Dad and I packed up the cat, a change of clothes, and anything else we thought we might need for a weekend away and headed down the road to the local Motel 6.

By sunrise the next morning it seemed our worst nightmare was realized.