City officials convene after Loma Fire
Though the burn scar of the Loma Fire looms large over Loma Alta Drive, the risk of a mudslide coming from the area remains very low as Santa Barbara heads into the summer, city officials said Thursday.
In the aftermath of last week’s fire, Santa Barbara officials are in discussion over what can be done to support the private property owners whose homes were impacted by the flames.
The fire scorched about nine acres of land near the Mesa, and a group of city and county officials met at the site of the fire on Thursday to assess the damage.
Though the fire destroyed vegetation and left ash littered across the soil, Acting Public Works Director Joshua Haggmark said the risk of a mudslide or debris flow remains very low in the area, particularly as Santa Barbara’s rainy season remains months away.
“We don’t think there’s a threat to public health, certainly no immediate threat to public health, and we’re going to be doing our due diligence to work with private property owners to come up with a plan to make any changes we need to make before next year’s rainy season, which if it’s like this year, then there’s nothing to worry about,” Mr. Haggmark told the News-Press.
The burn scar is causing officials to reminisce on the Thomas Fire in 2017, which ultimately led to the devastating Montecito mudslides after the area was pounded with heavy rain just three weeks later. But because the Loma Fire occurred in May as opposed to October or November, Mr. Haggmark said there is still time to see how much the native vegetation can recover before rain hits the area in the winter.
“This is not the kind of hillside where you’re going to get debris flow,” Mr. Haggmark said. “This is not Montecito.”
He later added, “The city doesn’t see mud or rock fall being a risk to the lower West Side neighborhood homes.”
If a rain shower could threaten a potential mudslide in the area, Mr. Haggmark said officials would likely close Loma Alta Drive out of “an abundance of caution” to ensure no damage would be done from flowing material. He said officials are also considering putting up a K-rail in the area during the winter months to catch debris, though the city will continue to monitor and study the area.
Because the fire occurred on private property, Mr. Haggmark said the city is currently working to support the property owners as they decide how to best secure their property in the future.