Threat of mudslides discussed in Sierra Madre

SIERRA MADRE — Prompted by the first rain of the season, emergency and city officials met with a small group of Sierra Madre residents Wednesday to take steps to protect their homes and loved ones from mudslides and debris flows that threaten the community in the wake of last year’s Santa Anita Fire.
While the Station Fire is is not affecting the hillsides near Sierra Madre, concerns remain because the hillsides are still unstable from the Santa Anita Fire, which started in April 2008 and scorched a little less than 600 acres above the foothill community, Sierra Madre Director of Public Works Bruce Inman said. The hilldsides are not expected to stablize for another three to five years, he said.
Because of limited resources and staff, he said, residents are encouraged take measures to protect their homes and loved ones in the event of major slides.
“We don’t have the resources and staffing to provide relief to individual residents,” Inman said. “You need to prepare and protect your own property.
Furthermore, he said, because of the Station Fire, county resources will likely be spread thin should the region receive significant rain.
Inman said residents should not be lulled into complacency by the amount of new growth on the hillsides above Sierra Madre, as the ground remains unstable.
The both city and county officials have taken steps since last year to strengthen the community against mudslides and debris flows, Inman said, but added there will undoubtedly be mud during the rainy season.
A system of green, yellow and red flags throughout the city keep residents posted on the current threat level, officials explained. Green flags were posted Wednesday.
A three stage warning system is used by Sierra Madre to warn residents of the threat level posed by mudslides.
A green flag is erected when officials receive word that there’s an 80 percent or greater chance of rain, Inman explained.
A yellow flag indicated mudslides have occurred, but are relatively minor, he added. At this level, residents are asked to move their cars from canyon roads to make room fir emergency vehicles.
The final flag, red, indicated a significant mudslides have occurred, Inman added. Parking is prohibited during a red flag warning on all canyon streets, and mandatory evacuation will be ordered.
Should calls for evacuations come, Sierra Madre Volunteer Dire Department Chief Steve Heydorff encouraged residents to heed them.
“When we do ask you to leave, you need to leave. It could be a while for us as a fire department to get up there.”
Those preparing to evacuate should make plans for pets, as well as make sure to have seven days worth of supplies on hand, Sierra Madre Police Chief Marilyn Diaz said.
She also advised residents to look out for elderly or disabled neighbors who may need help during an emergency.
Officials referred residents to mudslide preparation information available on-line through the county Department of Public Works at
During Wednesday’s rainfall, no issues with mudslides or debris flows in Sierra Madre were reported, Inman said.
The cause of the Santa Anita fire was never officially confirmed, Heydorff said, however investigators suspected a discarded cigarette was to blame.
Robert D. K. White, 56, of Sierra Madre said he he believed the city was doing everything in its power to prepare for the looming threat of mudslides and debris flows.
“We have a fantastic staff here in the city,” he said. “They’re our friends out there watching out for us.”

Facebook Twitter Reddit Tumblr Linkedin Email