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As winter arrives, plan to prevent possible mudslide in Avila Fire burn area now in place

Avila Fire burn area
Avila Fire burn area as seen along Mattie Road in Shell Beach on Dec. 23, 2020 (Dave Alley/KEYT)

PISMO BEACH, Calif. -- Blackened hills still line the eastern edge of Shell Beach.

It's a daily reminder of the Avila Fire that burned in mid-June.

"You still see some of the charring marks and scar marks," said Jorge Garcia, Pismo Beach Management Services Director

Since the intentionally-set fire burned 445 acres, Pismo Beach staff has worked with other agencies and officials in an effort to fortify the area.

"Immediately after the fire, city staff began working on mitigation efforts, both internally, as well as with the homeowners and homeowners associations (HOA), in order to anticipate what could happen," said Garcia. "We wanted to make sure we were ready."

The city wanted to be ready for a catastrophic mudslide, that could potentially be triggered by significant rainfall.

"On the city side, we prepared by having K-rail, making sure that we had accurate maps of where all of our infrastructure is, in order to make sure whether there's a storm in the middle of the day or middle of the night," said Garcia, who added planning began in September.

At the same time the city was working on its efforts, other preventative measures were also taking place.

"A lot of the HOAs brought on private engineers to evaluate the hillsides," said Garcia. "They installed the straw rolls. They installed a lot of erosion control measures. Those efforts will go a long ways towards mitigating if there was to be a mudslide."

In addition to city and homeowners efforts, additional government agencies have also participated in the emergency planning, including Cal Fire, U.S. Forestry Department and Caltrans.

"Our maintenance crews went along the eastern border of northbound 101, along the fenceline, clearing debris, dead brush, dead shrubs, upon the request of some of the neighbors, so we were able to do that very efficiently, allowing us to do our part for winter prep," said Jim Shivers, Caltrans public information officer. "(Highway 101) is a major north-south thoroughfare for tourism, for commerce, for commuters. A lot of the efforts that happened in Santa Barbara, while we don't anticipate that those would happen here, we wanted to make sure that we were prepared if anything like that happened now or in the future."

With a modest rainstorm in the forecast for this weekend, Garcia said it is welcome news.

"(Rain) helps to reestablish the roots, grow vegetation and bring a lot of the hillside back to life," said Garcia. "That will go a tremendous way in terms of preventing a mudslide. We do benefit from being a coastal city. That early morning moisture and dew, helps those plants grow and reestablish roots. That goes a long ways."

California / Environment / Safe at Home / Safety / San Luis Obispo County / What's Right
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Dave Alley

Dave Alley is a reporter and anchor at NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Dave, click here.

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