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With winter coming, hard hit Arroyo Hondo preserve holding up after damaging Alisal fire

Arroyo Hondo
The Arroyo Hondo Preserve has been hard hit by the Alisal fire, and erosion that include debris flows may occur during hard rains.

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - .   The Arroyo Hondo Preserve was scorched during the October Alisal fire and the steep hillsides are holding, for now, but the potential for slides is very high. 

Some areas of the sensitive land is already showing signs of regrowth.

On a tour with The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County Wednesday morning, Santa Barbara County Supervisor Joan Hartmann said, "we can't reseed so we really have to wait and hope we have light rain and not a deluge."

The 782-acre preserve on the Gaviota Coast is near Refugio Beach. The canyon is in the middle of what was a massive fire of about 17,000 acres.

95 percent of the preserve was burned. The historic home was spared from the flames. That was due to fire units on scene, and the pre-fire efforts involving grazing sheep to chew down the tall, dry grasses, which spread wildland fires fast.

"We knew fire was coming.  We knew that this was a reality and  how dry the landscape was," said Executive Director Meredith Hendricks.

From an overlook, Supervisor Gregg Hart said, "we're looking at the watershed, now we can see what the potential is for a serious storm that is going to come straight down that canyon. Everything we are doing today is to prevent tragedies in the future."
Conservation Director Bruce Reitherman said, "debris and stuff  can wash down and clog the mouth of this and this becomes a dam, on which on top of it is a freeway and you don't want a lot of water backing up underneath the freeway."

A plan  to protect the treasured site and historic buildings is still coming together, beyond local help and the non-profit's resources.

Hartmann said, "there are other sources of funding that we are exploring with the state to help with the  Alisal fire,  (we've) got our fingers crossed."

After very hot and large fires, often some new plants are seen for the first time in years.
"Now we leave a lot to Mother Nature. This area has burned many times before.  Regrowth will occur.  We will see some really incredible fire following plants that only come out after fire," said Hendricks.

The county is collaborating on what needs to be done to protect the area, and also the nearby roadways maintained by its public works department. Hart said, "our  public works crews know what to do to keep the roads open and safe and everybody's working together which is really our brand in Santa Barbara County. "

The group touring the site included representatives from offices of State Senator Monique Limon and Congressman Salud Carbajal.

The preserve is not currently open to the public.

When it is, the touring groups include researchers and thousands of school children annually.

Article Topic Follows: Fire
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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3. To learn more about John, click here.


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