FALLBROOK, Calif. – The hard-hit communities of North County devastated last month by the Lilac Fire weathered the first major rain storm of the season without mudslides or flooding.
County officials and Cal Fire firefighters helped the communities ravaged by the fire take steps to protect their property, but the rain on Monday night and Tuesday was easily absorbed by the parched landscape.
Hillsides in Bonsall and Fallbrook were denuded of vegetation when the fire swept west from Old Highway 395 on Dec. 7, pushed by savage Santa Ana winds. The fire blackened 4,100 acres and destroyed 113 homes before firefighters stopped it the next day.
“Obviously the mudslides are really bad I mean this is a deep slope and as you can see it’s pretty charred so we’re real concerned about that,” said Rancho Monserate resident Lance Gappard.
Lance Gappard’s father’s home is up against the slope of a hill. Their home was spared during the Lilac wildfire but they fear they’ll fall victim to mother nature’s latest threat.
“We’re pretty good with sandbags right now, obviously we’re in direct flow of the hillside but just there’s only one entrance in this place and what we’re concerned about is being able to get out of this place if something bad does happen,” said Gappard.
Property owners set out sandbags on slopes in preparation for the storm, but the area dodged the heavy downpours that caused devastating mudslides in the Thomas Fire burn area in Santa Barbara County. So far the hillsides have been holding, but for residents like Lance they know all too well how quickly things can change.
“Yeah, you know um we definitely needed the rain and I think it’s going to help in the short term just settling the dust down and everything like that, but obviously our main concern is the mudslides if we can get through that I think we’ll be alright,” said Gappard.
The lack of vegetation and roots on burned-out hillsides and canyons like the ones surrounding Rancho Monserate retirement community leaves them much more vulnerable to potential landslides, mudslides and flooding. County officials said they plan on seeding the bare hillsides once the rain stops in the hope that plants will sprout in the moist soil.