Reducing Fire Fuel in Altadena

A Corpsmember in safety equipment in left foreground uses a pole saw to cut tree branches in the background.

Los Angeles Center crew leader Ruben Ramirez uses a pole saw to cut down branches hanging over a drainage channel in Altadena, CA.

In the foothills high above Interstate-210, a hidden danger lurks just along the edge of homeowners’ backyards. It’s a threat the California Conservation Corps knows well—fuel for wildfire.

“We do a lot of fuel reduction,” said Los Angeles Corpsmember Maria Solano. “We buck, trim and remove brush. It’s a lot of heavy work, but it’s what we do.”

Overgrown and unruly vegetation combined with dead and dry brush piled in Altadena’s drainage canals threaten to turn a brush fire into a potentially destructive and deadly inferno.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department and the Chaney Millard Fire Safe Council turned to the CCC Los Angeles Center to help extinguish the threat before it could become a reality.

“There’s a lot of fuel for fires here,” Solano said. “We’ve been removing a lot of brush from these canals. We’ve been using pole saws to cut overhanging branches and hand tools to remove all the debris.”

Corpsmembers, 18 to 25-year-olds who volunteer for a year of paid service doing natural resource work, spent weeks navigating the steep and heavily overgrown drainage canals. The concrete, u-shaped canals run right along the backyard fences of homeowners.
CCC Corpsmembers helped clear approximately 21 acres on and near the Chaney Trail and they pruned tree limbs above neighborhood streets.

“We were making sure that if a fire comes here that the fire trucks can pass clearly,” said Corpsmember Danny Lamb. “It feels great to help this community because you could be in the same situation where you live and would want someone to help you out.”

Residents expressed their gratefulness to the crew throughout the project’s completion. Corpsmembers hope their hard work will make a real difference for this community sitting on the edge of the wildland-urban interface.

“They’re happy we’re here,” Solano said. “Most of the streets were covered with branches of the trees. A lot of brush that’s just been growing in the streets and in the drainage canals. We’ve been moving a lot of stuff out and we’ve been trying to reduce all that vegetation and the high risk of fire.”

The work was paid for through the CCC’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund dollars. The CCC receives $2.5 million annually to complete forest health projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, such as the smoke caused by wildfire. The CCC regularly partners with local fire safe council’s to complete project work in local communities.