Will This Historic Los Angeles Park Be The Next Victim Of A Deadly California Wild Fire?
Franklin Canyon Park is one of Los Angeles’ most gorgeous areas, nestled in the Santa Monica mountains between the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood.
Not only is there a magnificent lake AND a perhaps the world’s greatest pond, filled with various types of ducks, turtles and whatever this thing is… The park also is home to lots of other wildlife, a ranger station specializing in outdoor education, and dozens of hiking trails.
Wikipedia adds that Franklin Canyon Park is also known as a bird watcher’s delight.
And while you may not have heard of Franklin Canyon Park, you have likely seen it. It’s where the opening to the Andy Griffith Show was filmed.
Despite it’s storied history and charm, Franklin Canyon Park faces an uncertain future… that recent events have made slightly more certain.
And what does the future hold for Franklin Canyon Park? A huge fucking Fire. That’s what the future holds. A fire that would forever destroy a gorgeous and placid refuge for both humans and wildlife alike.
A recent fire in Benedict Canyon came within just 4 or 5 miles of Franklin Canyon…
The horrific Skirball Fire of 2017 came within about 10 miles.
And the Woolsey Fire was less than 20 miles away.
What ALL of these fires have in common is nearly identical topography, a metric shit ton of dry underbrush, and a huge number of densely packed both living and dead trees densely – all of which make for ideal fuel for a raging firestorm.
All of these fires have one other thing in common. They were likely started by failures with the power lines operated by the area’s electrical utility.
California fire officials are currently investigating Pacific Gas and Electric’s role in the Camp Fire, the state’s deadliest fire that destroyed Paradise, California, killing 80+ people.
Southern California Edison officials acknowledged that their faulty equipment helped spark the 2017 Thomas Fire that raged through Ventura County and killed 22 people and destroyed 1000 buildings.
A 2013 fire that destroyed 30,000 acres in Santa Clarita, just north of Los Angeles, was caused by power lines operated by the Los Angeles Dept of water and power.
In June 2018 California fire investigators confirmed that a dozen fires north of San Francisco last October were caused by Pacific Gas and Electric power lines.
Power lines can fall in heavy rain or wind. They can be struck by cars. Tree branches can become intertwined in the power lines. Over time, equipment can and will breakdown, corrode or fail… All of which can and all too frequently does cause the electricity running through the power lines to arc or spark…Sometimes a piece of failing equipment gets white hot and flies off… and then suddenly, bam: Fire.
A 2017 investigation found that PG&E’s failure to clear or trim trees near power lines caused three wildfires in Butte and Nevada counties in the fall.
And “a failure to clear or trim trees near power lines” gets us right back to Franklin Canyon Park, where you can easily see numerous instances where powerlines and trees occupy the same space.
California regulations require utilities to maintain adequate clearance between power lines and vegetation. More specifically, California State law GO 95 Rule 35 requires that flammable vegetation must be kept 4 feet from power lines in some instances, and a minimum of 18 inches in others… and flammable material and vegetation that is closer, must be removed entirely.
The truth is, due to some combination of global warming, lack of rain here in Southern California, failing equipment and not nearly enough raking of the forest floor – as the Commander in Bullshit says – all of Franklin Canyon Park is just one errant spark away from a full-on inferno.
And look, I’ve chosen to focus on Franklin Canyon Park, because it’s a place I love to take a walk, clear my head and just think… but there are dozens if not hundreds of similar parks and wooded areas in and around Los Angeles that area facing the prospect of a similar inferno.
The question is: What can we do about it? Well, the department of Homeland Security has urged all americans to say something if they see something. And well, I’ve decided that message doesn’t just have to refer to the threat of terrorism… here in Southern California, it should also refer to fire… which this year alone has killed more people than any terrorist group has.
So, with that in mind, I want to urge you if you live in the Los Angeles area, to call the Los Angeles Dept of Water and Power, that’s the utility company responsible for the power lines in Franklin Canyon Park… The number’s on the screen. Tell the person who answers you want to speak with David H. Wright, he’s the General Manager.
And if you live anywhere in CA, call YOUR local power provider.
Tell them about the power lines, the dry underbrush, and the dead and living trees in Franklin Canyon park… and all the other places you see where power lines and flammable material and vegetation closer than the laws allow.
Let’s all of us do a little something to try and prevent the next huge fire.
UPDATE: Moments before I finished editing this story, a representative from the LADWP got back to me. Earlier in the day, I called to report the numerous instances of fire danger in Franklin Canyon park. I was told an inspector had been dispatched to the area…and had found seven instances of vegetation too close to the power lines… and that LADWP will have quote “their contractors trim those trees ASAP.”