Classes cancelled Monday at Valley View Elementary School in Duarte; K-rails continue to hold in Fish fire impact area

DUARTE >> Officials cancelled Monday classes at a Duarte elementary school at the center the Fish fire impact area, which was threatened by mudslides and flooding Sunday as a storm dropped inches of rain over the Southland on Sunday afternoon.
School will be cancelled Monday at Valley View Elementary School, 237 Melcanyon Road, according to city and Duarte Unified School District officials.
Mud piled up high alongside roadside K-rails guarding the surrounding neighborhoods, but continued to hold Sunday afternoon, despite a heavy downpour Sunday morning, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. James Long said.
“So far, everything is holding, and there’s been really very minor mudflow activity,” Duarte spokeswoman Karen Herrera said.
Mandatory evacuations remained in effect for the Fish fire impact area, affecting 180 homes.
•Map: Fish fire impact area
An evacuation center capable of taking in both people and pets has been set up by city and Red Cross officials at the Duarte Community Center, 1600 Huntington Drive. It is scheduled to remain open so long as the city’s Red Alert, and corresponding mandatory evacuation orders, remain in effect.
“Very few” people made us of shelter, Herrera said.
The majority of residents of the affected area chose not to heed evacuation orders, but to shelter in place instead, she said.
Voluntary evacuation orders were also issued for neighborhoods in the Colby fire impact area in Azusa, authorities said.
A Flash Flood Warning was to remain in effect in the area through 6 p.m. Monday, according to the National Weather Service.


PHOTO by Watchara Phomicinda

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Incoming storm prompts mandatory evacuations in Duarte’s Fish fire impact area


DUARTE >> Authorities issued mandatory evacuation orders for homes below the recent Fish fire burn area in Duarte Sunday morning as a powerful storm threatened to drop as much as 6 inches of rain in the area, prompting fears of mudslides and flooding.
The evacuation orders are to take effect at 7 a.m. as the city activated a Red Alert for the impacted neighborhoods, which surround Valley View Park and Valley View Elementary School, city officials said in a written statement.
The evacuation zone includes portions of Deerlane Drive, Melcanyon Road, Brookridge Road, Mountaincrest Road, Greenbank Avenue and Bettyhill Avenue. Police and Community Emergency Response Team volunteers went door-to-door Saturday night notifying residents of the evacuations.
•Fish fire burn area map
The storm is expected to reach the area around 9 a.m.
“Although the timing could fluctuate, the heaviest rainfall is expected between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., and between 4 to 6 inches in total rain is expected,” according to the city statement.
“Widespread, heavy downpours could cause mud and debris flows more extensive than Friday’s on Melcanyon Road and adjacent streets, which resulted in over 2,800 cubic yards of mud.”
Rates of up to an inch of rain per hour are predicted, which is well above the threshold authorities say can trigger mudslides. And the denuded hillsides are already saturated with water from the previous days’ rain.
The Duarte Community Center at 1600 Huntington Drive will open as an evacuation center at 7 a.m., officials said. It will remain open as long as mandatory evacuation orders are in place.
City officials urged evacuees to take with them any medicines or other items they will need for a minimum of 48 hours. Meals will be provided at the evacuation center, and county animal control officials will also be on-hand to tend to evacuees’ pets.
“Please note, residents under mandatory evacuation orders will not be allowed back into their homes until the orders are officially lifted by Duarte public safety officials,” the statement said. “Residents that refuse to evacuate must be prepared to shelter in place until evacuation orders are lifted.
Residents of the Fish fire impact area can pick up filled sandbags at the corner of Brookridge and Opal Canyon roads. Unfilled sandbags are also available at Los Angeles County Fire Station 44, 1105 Highland Avenue.
“If you feel conditions are unsafe to evacuate, move to the highest safe place in your residence and shelter in place,” according to the statement.
Residents of the affected neighborhoods were also directed to remove all vehicles, trash bins or other obstructions from the street before evacuating, or they will be removed by authorities.
Updated information will be posted the city’s website, Twitter account and Nixle page, officials said. The sheriff’s Temple Station can be reached at 626-285-7171.
The Fish fire ignited in June and scorched more than 2,500 acres of vegetation before being extinguished by firefighters.

Fish fire impact area map courtesy of the city of Duarte.


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UPDATED — Welcome home: All mandatory evacuation orders lifted in foothills


Authorities lifted mandatory evacuation orders in Glendora and Azusa Sunday morning on the heels of a storm that destabilized the hillsides of the Colby Fire burn area and sent mud flowing through residential streets.
The last of the evacuation orders, which affected 10 homes along Ridge View Drive in Arcadia along the denuded hillsides of the recent Colby Fire, were lifted at 11:45 a.m., Azusa police officials announced in a written statement.
“Residents may return to their residences, according to the police statement.
Only one home at the northern end of Ridge View Drive in Azusa sustained structural damage from the slides, officials said.
EVACS2Dozens of city and county workers, along with firefighters, were busy clearing mud that had poured into the backyard of Ed Heinlein and his family. The mud reached nearly 5 feet thick at some points.
“There’s 100 tons of mud back here,” Heinlein said. “We’ve got mud and stuff in the back of the house.”
To prepare for the mass of mud that eventually barrelled down on his family’s home from a steep hillside, Heinlein said he knocked a hole in a block wall on the south side of his property to allow the water to flow through. And he placed the rubble into trash cans to build a levy on the other side of his property.
“It’s engineering 101 if you’re a local homeowner,” he quipped.
And while the effort helped with the mud flow, Heinlein said he was concerned the weight of the mass of mud and debris might compromise his home’s foundation.
And despite significant damage, Heinlein said it could have been far worse. He credited a grove of 5,000 avocado trees overlooking his home for preventing further disaster.
“It stopped boulders the size of cars,” he said. “It stopped all that nasty stuff. It’s a miracle.”
And the same avocado grove, which the owner heavily watered during the Colby Fire, helped protect Heinlein’s home from damage during the January wildfire, he said.
A basketball hoop that previously stood at a regulation height of 10 feet emerged only about 5 feet from the mud Sunday morning.
Workers started the clean-up process by clearing mud 3 feet away from the periphery of the home, creating a trench. Both shovels and small earthmoving equipment were brought to bear on the mucky mess.
“This is really great,” Heinlein said of the dozens of city and county workers and officials who have helped him and his family deal with the storm damage.
“Mayor (Joe) Rocha left his church service to come down,” Heinlein said. “Council members were out here with shovels.”
Highway 39 within Azusa was also reopened Sunday morning, officials said, though travelers were urged to be cautious while using it due to possible mud or debris remaining in the roadway. The roadway remained closed leading into the Angeles National Forest.
In an act of community spirit, Max’s Mexican Cuisine in Azusa offered free dinner to evacuated residents of Ridge View Drive with proof of residence.
“City crews have been working diligently at removing the debris and mud which flowed onto Ridge View Drive,” according to the police statement. “They will continue to work aggressively at returning the neighborhood to it’s normal condition.”
Glendora officials downgraded the city’s alert status from red to yellow at 6 a.m., allowing displaced residents to return home. About 1,000 Glendora homes were under the evacuation orders.
“Rain-related parking restrictions are in effect,” Glendora police officials said in a written statement. “Residents are directed to remove vehicles, trash bins and other obstructions from the street.”
Trash service in the affected Glendora neighborhoods is to resume its usual schedule immediately, and mail service — which was stopped Friday and Saturday — will resume Monday, police and city officials said.
Authorities advised returning residents to examine their properties before entering, watch out for possible sinkholes in yards and be cautious while driving through the still-muddy and rock-strewn neighborhoods.
Residents with concerns involving mud or debris were encouraged to contact the Glendora Department of Public Works at 626-914-8246. City officials directed residents with other safety-related concerns to contact the Glendora Police Department.
Glendora City Manager Chris Jeffers has asked that residents who collected the more than 50,000 sandbags distributed by the city during and prior to the storm to keep them. The bags may yet be necessary during future rains, as the barren hillsides may pose a mudslide risk for several years to come.
Evacuation orders for about 200 homes in Monrovia were lifted at 6 p.m. Saturday.
In Sierra Madre, the Mt. Wilson Trail remained off-limits for hikers as clean-up efforts continued Sunday.
“There are several areas of the trail that are dangerous due to rock slides,” city officials said in a written statement. “Authorities will be working on the trail the next few days to make it as safe as possible. Until then hikers should refrain from using the trail for everyone’s safety. The trail is officially closed until repairs can be made.”

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Mud puts lives on hold in foothills; Monrovia residents get OK to go home


Reporting that the “streets are a mess right now,” Glendora Police Chief Tim Staab said Saturday evening that the city hopes to have its emergency level alert downgraded to yellow by 6 a.m. today, which will allow residents to return to their homes, with caution.

“The last two storm cells to come through have done a pretty good job at pulling that mud down the hillsides.” Staab said.

“For those residents who have been evacuated, this is getting old. We understand that. We continue to ask or our residents’ patience,” he said. “Out No.  1 goal is to get our residents back into their homes and, unfortunately, it’s these storms that are getting in the way right now.”

The massive rainstorm continued to soak barren hillsides in Glendora, Azusa and Monrovia on Saturday as officials warned evacuated residents that the danger of mudslides and flooding remained very real, even as rays of sunshine peeked through the clouds.

“The experts tell us that thunderstorms are unpredictable, and they form really quickly,” Staab said in an afternoon news conference. “They also tell us that the hillsides are so saturated that we really don’t know at this point what event can cause the hills to suddenly break loose. And once that momentum starts, you just have to get out of the way.”

Officials lifted mandatory evacuation orders in Monrovia at 6 p.m. Saturday as the storm left the region…


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Flash Flood Warning issued as heavy rain resumes in foothill burn areas

The National Weather Service issued a Flash Flood Warning Saturday afternoon as heavy rains again began to pound the already water-saturated hillsides of recent burn areas in Glendora, Azusa and Monrovia.
The warning, which was preceded by forecasts of heavy rain and possible thunderstorms in the afternoon, was issued just before 2:30 p.m. It was expected to remain in effect through 4:15 p.m.
“At 2:15 p.m., National Weather Service doppler radar indicated a cluster of thunderstorms moving toward the burn areas,” according to a statement issued by the agency. “Rainfall rates have exceeded one half inch per half hour with these storms, which will be capable of producing additional flooding with mud and debris flows in the burn area.”
Those who remained inside the mandatory evacuation zones were advised to shelter in place rather than trying to leave their homes during the storm.

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