Caltrans to speed brush clearance near freeways
With expectations that an already bad fire season is about to get worse as spring melts into summer, local and state officials announced Friday that Caltrans would expedite brush clearance along freeways in Los Angeles.
City fire officials have complained for years that Caltrans needed to clear more brush, particularly along roadways in the mountains, where fires frequently begin.
Caltrans officials have said their hands were tied by conflicting regulations that required them to clear brush but also to preserve it to avoid soil erosion.
Los Angeles is in the midst of its driest rain year on record, which ends June 30, and the region already has experienced several major fires, most recently in Griffith Park and on Santa Catalina Island. Fire officials are particularly worried about areas along the 405 Freeway in the Sepulveda Pass, California 118 in Northridge, the Pasadena Freeway near Mount Washington, the 210 Freeway in Sylmar and Sunland and the Ventura and Glendale freeways in Eagle Rock.
Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) and Councilman Jack Weiss pushed Caltrans and the city Fire Department to work out a solution, which they did earlier this month.
Under the deal, Caltrans agreed to widen, to 10 feet, the buffers it has been cutting along the freeways. Caltrans and Fire Department officials also said they would use aerial maps to target areas where more work was needed.
“Cars move very slowly through the Sepulveda Pass, but flames are another story altogether,” Weiss said at a Friday morning news conference at the pass. “The wild card is always the wind — a little fire with a lot of wind can become a huge con- flagration very quickly.”
Michael Miles, a deputy director of maintenance and operations for Caltrans, said the agency is deploying a crew of 50 workers to do brush clearance in high-priority areas this month.
Fire Department officials are reminding homeowners to clear brush around their homes so that firefighters have space to defend structures — just in case worst comes to worst.
POWER WALK: Councilman Jack Weiss, left, Capt. Joe Szabados of the L.A. Fire Department and Michael Miles of Caltrans walk in an area Caltrans maintains by the 405 Freeway in Sherman Oaks.