Urgent debris basin clearing is underway before rain hits Thomas fire zones

Heavy equipment starting working last week

Urgent creek clearing underway in Thomas fire burn zone (John Palminteri/KEYT photo)

MONTECITO, Calif. - The Santa Barbara County Public Works department is attempting to do a massive amount of earth moving work in the Thomas fire zone in just a few weeks.

The potential for damage is high without debris basins cleared out.

Crews moved into the Carpinteria area last week at Gubernador Canyon.  They have 11 basins targeted on the South Coast.

Dirt was being moved today out of the San Ysidro creek off Park Lane in Montecito.  A cycle of dump trucks moved in to take out big hauls of dirt being dug out of an existing basin.

Some of the flood protection projects have a 50 year history.  "They have been there and functional," said Fayram.

Santa Barbara County Deputy Director of Water Resources, Tom Fayram says the drought appears to be ongoing even though last year there were some significant rain events. He says residents need to be ready because "it will rain."

Fayram is quick to be a reminder that a hard,  fast rain can be devastating. 

Last January 20, a damaging rain event hit the coast. That  caused a dangerous runoff at El Capitan resort with impacts to    vacation cabins and vehicles.  The resort has since cleaned up  and is open.

Some of the front country basins were "built for fires," said Fayram.  They can  hold back debris such as fallen trees but still allow water to pass through safely without gushing out over the sides and damaging homes.

Fayram says even with the county on a fast track, "It's a shared responsibility.  We are going to do everything we can in our flood basins."  He urges residents to evaluate the risks to their property and make  a plan.  That could include sand bags or a larger project to divert runoff water.

Many different canyons and culverts are vulnerable after not just the recent Thomas fire but also the still damaged acreage following the Rey, Sherpa and Whittier fires, along the Gaviota coast and San Marcos Pass.

For more information about the Thomas Fire, visit  http://countyofsb.org/thomasfire.sbc


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