Sunday, June 29, 2014


Brush and timber is so dry in the San Gabriel Mountains it’s if heavy breathing could set it ablaze. Golden grasses waver in a warm breeze while a light coat of dust seems to take the life out of spindly cactus flowers and yucca spears. In early summer morning overcast usually dampens the temperatures and staves off fire season until later in September and October but the winter was dry, almost no rain, and now even majestic oaks have lost their sheen and seem to have given up hope.  

            In San Dimas Canyon the asphalt is crumbling and it’s only a lane and a half-wide past the point where it winds steeply uphill towards the dam. A Forest Service fire camp is at the end of the road and one of the firemen is up on a ledge behind the garage. He says the road goes into the experimental forest, a kind of wilderness area in the Angeles National Forest. The fire fighters stay in their camp all year around. I wish him well, saying everything is extremely dry from up on the Ridge Road where I drove yesterday.

            The road ends just beyond the fire camp where it continues behind locked gates into the experimental forest. The road is only open to the fire fighters if they need to get in there and cut down a fire. It’s brutal country, steep sided canyon walls filled with dried grasses, low brush and oaks. The slow, winding road offers the only way out other than helicopter and a wall of flame could cut off the road at several points.   

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