Tag Archives: Big Tujunga

Six Years…

It’s hard to believe that six years have passed since the Station Fire destroyed much of Big Tujunga Canyon. It has been six hard years, full of drama, loss, tears and laughter. Some people have moved away. Some have shuffled off the mortal coil. New people have moved into the canyon. And some have rebuilt or are rebuilding.

Every year (except last year), I have thrown a memorial BBQ in honor of the Station Fire. What can I say? It appeals to my twisted sense of humor to char meats, fruit and vegetables in memory of the worst wildfire in Los Angeles County history.

Here are some photos from this year’s BBQ. Hopefully you will join us next year!




Instant party. Just add people!
Instant party. Just add people!
« 1 of 11 »



Five years and a lifetime ago…

Although five years isn’t really a long time, it seems as though the world is a very different place today compared to what it was on August 1, 2009. Objectively, I know that I have changed far more than the world around me, but subjectively there are times when I feel like a stranger in my own life. Things that I thought would never change have changed, and still other things I thought I could depend on have been lost forever.

For those of us who live (or lived) in the Angeles Forest, the Station Fire is more than a few lines in history. It was a cusp, a pivotal point beyond which nothing is the same. The fire itself was horrific, raging through the chaparral-covered hillsides with a vengeance like something out of the Old Testament. It destroyed old forest growth, wildlife, homes and lives. And I’m not just speaking of the two firefighters who died in the fire. In the five years since the Station Fire at least three Angelenos have died, one by suicide.

And I am not the only who feels altered, different from who we were before. Over and over again, as survivors have met and shared and bonded around this shared disaster experience, I have heard the same sentiments expressed, the same sense of otherness described. It is part of our bond, and something that we can accept in each other without question or judgement.

Rebuilding, where it has happened at all, has been slow and spotty. None of the homes lost on National Forest lands can be rebuilt, and few residents on privately owned lands have been able to return and rebuild. Red tape and inter-agency turf wars have made a daunting task nearly impossible for more than a few, and the process has been wearing for everyone who has made the effort.

Five years after the Station Fire I am still wrestling with the reality that the forest I knew is never going to be the same. The trees are different, the wildlife is different, the riverbed is very different, even the quality of the light and air is different. Sometimes different is not a bad thing, but in this case the differences are constant reminders of what was lost. Those differences are sometimes so great that it seems as though the forest I knew was a place where I lived in another life.


Time flies whether it’s fun or not

Angeles National Forest Sign Burning in the Station FireI can’t believe that four years have passed. It seems like the Station Fire happened just a moment ago, and that my life before the fire belonged to someone else. And I’m one of the lucky ones… My house didn’t burn.

As August descends once more I look back on what was lost, what remains, and what has begun to be restored or rebuilt. I remember how fiercely I felt about the forest before the fire swept through it. I remember how tentative and fearful I became afterwards. I remember the hollow feeling I had in my heart when I lived in exile, renting a house in the West Valley while my home was boarded up and empty because the fear of debris flows kept me away.

Even now, years after returning, I am still disoriented. I still can’t find things in my house because so many things were moved by others and put away in different places. I cannot imagine how others feel, my friends and one-time neighbors who truly did lose everything to the Inferno.

It’s not all bad, though. The forest continues to restore itself in terms of foliage and furry critters. (The ground squirrels have run rampant and unchecked for so long that they’ve gotten plague again. Hopefully that will kill them off, but I digress…)

People are finally building and rebuilding in the Canyon, but progress has been slow, and it seems that even the most stubborn folk are losing their will to return. It is still difficult for me to walk to Wildwood and see all the empty lots where quirky houses and so many wonderful trees once stood. It’s lonely, too. There used to be so many dogs to visit along that walk. Now there are only two, and one of them isn’t very sociable.

I guess that’s the problem with August. The Anniversary always makes me nostalgic and wistful, remembering and grieving for things lost and people who have moved away. I know it will pass and I will get on with my life, going to work, paying my bills, and trying to improve on things as best I can. That’s what we all do, wherever we are. That’s what life requires of us.

So once more I will face August, host my Memorial BBQ and invite my fellow survivors to gather in the forest to share our memories and stories of things past and present. It’s what I do to cope, to face the emptiness. It never goes completely away, that emptiness, but that doesn’t mean I let it rule me.

For I have promises to keep….




Much of Angeles Forest to Open

As many of you know, there have been many, many rumors about when the Forest Service would reopen the Angeles, and about precisely how much of the forest would be reopened. At long last we have solid facts to relay.

Most of the Angeles is being reopened to the public next Monday, May 16, 2011. However, the Big Tujunga watershed is not part of the reopening because the damage to that part of the forest was more extreme.

The links below will take you to the official USFS press release, the PDF version of that release, as well as the official closure order and associated legals.



Angeles Reopening Press Release, May 12, 2011
This links to the online version of the official press release issued yesterday, May 12, 2011.

PDF Version, Angeles Reopening Press Release, May 12, 2011  PDF Version, Angeles Reopening Press Release, May 12, 2011
This is a PDF version of the press release. Special thanks to Paul Ayers for forwarding the press release in Word form.

Station Fire Closure Map
Note: While this is an official map from the USFS about the part of the Angeles Forest impacted by the Station Fire, it does not clearly show which parts of the forest are being reopened.

Station Fire Recovery Area Closure Order 01 11 03
This is the revised closure order for the Angeles Forest. It details which parts of the forest remain closed, who can use the forest, and what fines apply for those in violation of the closure.

Station Fire Recovery Area Legals Order 01 11 03
Legalese about the closure. (If you can understand it, more power to you.)


Funny and Not So Funny Happenings in Big T

First, the funny stuff…

One of the things that my grandmother did here in the canyon, and that I have continued doing since she passed, is feeding the local hummingbirds. Years ago I got a little hummingbird feeder that had perches for the little tykes so they could rest while having a snack. And, while it’s arguably not good for them, I do use a drop of food coloring in their water so I can more easily keep track of when the feeder needs to be refilled.

About a week ago I noticed that I hadn’t seen any hummingbird air battles in a while. Also, the rate of consumption of their food had dropped dramatically. The amount of food in the feeder was still going down, but not as fast as is typical.

Orange OrioleToday I discovered what is causing these changes in activity at the hummingbird watering hole. Orange Orioles.

I am still trying to snag a picture of the orioles that have commandeered my hummingbird feeder, but this picture I found on the web is spot on. Who knew? I don’t recall seeing this particular variety of bird in Big T before, but they are definitely here now.

Guess I’m going to have to get another feeder for the hummers, and this time without a perch so the orioles won’t use that one.

Now for the not-so-funny stuff…

This afternoon I took a drive up the road to check out the dam. As you might expect, the canyon had lots of cyclists, motorized and not, plus other visitors pulled off the the side of the road, parking and picnicking as though they never saw the “Forest Closed” signs.

The dam, as it happens, is full, and not with water.

The Big Tujunga Dam

This picture shows pretty clearly that the dam is completely filled with sediment. I have no idea what plans exist for excavating all that sand, silt, rock and debris, but I find it almost impossible to believe that the job could be done before next winter’s storms. And until the dam is dug out, all the water coming down the canyon is going to flow right over the spillway.

If anyone has connections with the dam, I would love to hear what plans are in the works to address this minor little problem. Otherwise, does anyone have blueprints for an ark I can borrow?

What was even more disturbing was what I found on the side of the canyon just below the vista point for the dam.

Someone's trash dump in Big T

From the look of it, someone dumped 5 or more boxes of books down the side of the canyon. The boxes appear dry, so this was fairly recent. But the books are scattered over an area at least 50 feet long, and on a very steep rock face. In order to clean this up someone would have to rappel down from the vista point and bring everything up piecemeal.

Illegal dumping is nothing new to Big T, but this just made no sense. Books can be donated or recycled. And the placement of the dump is practically malicious given how difficult it will be to retrieve this debris so it can be disposed of properly.

If anyone has resources available to tackle this issue, please let me know. It’s just heartbreaking to see this kind of thing in the forest.