So the Station Fire is still burning. No one really knows how badly the forest has been damaged, or when it will be safe for hikers to re-enter the wilderness. But it’s pretty dang frustrating sitting here at our desks, watching the Google Map updates and reading about other people’s descriptions of the fires – we want to become active, and we want to help.
I contacted Stanton Florea, spokesman for the Angeles National Forest, and asked him what we could do to speed the recovery of our city’s wilderness backyard, and he was kind enough to respond.
Basically, there’s not much we actively can do right now. The fire is, after all, still burning, and there remain several pockets of unburnt forest that might flare up again in the future. But here’s what we can expect in the short-term:
– The Burned Area Emergency Response Team (or BAER Team) has started getting itself mobilized for the aftermath. Their job is to go into the burned areas and assess the damage to “biological, archaeological, recreational and other resources that have been impacted by the Station Fire.” They expect their report to be out the third week of September.
– Shortly after that report, the LA County DWP and others will assess the damage to the extensive flood-control systems in the Angeles National Forest.
There is a news conference scheduled today, which may provide some more information about the short and long term outlook for the Forest, and a member of the BAER team will be there, so we might get to hear how bad it is.
However, volunteer groups are already staffing up and gathering names of interested individuals. The BAER team has set up an email address for those who want to help with rehab efforts, and you can contact them at [email protected].
There are also dozens of local and focused volunteer groups who would love to have an extra pair of hands on staff. The Los Angeles River Ranger District maintains a comprehensive list of volunteer groups, along with calendars of planned events at their web site. Their September newsletter should be posted sometime this weekend.
You can also call the Rangers directly at 818-899-1900 ext 229. I’m sure they’d be happy to hear from people willing to help.
The way I see it is this – we should all do our best to try to pitch in to the best of our ability. In all likelihood, we will not be allowed to hike in the Western San Gabriels for quite some time — so why not use one or two of our hiking weekends per month replanting trees, rebuilding trails, or volunteering at information desks?
Full recovery will likely take decades, especially for the higher burn areas. But every hour we volunteer to the rehabilitation efforts will not only help speed up the likely re-opening date, but will also ensure that future generations get to hike through the same forested, green canopies we got to enjoy.