Aspen Works with Local Agencies to Provide Wildfire Support in Southern California

Climatic changes are occurring locally and globally, and every indication points to the fact that frequent wildfires are becoming a fact of life in California. This will require a whole new mind-set for both private and public entities to develop plans to reduce the frequency of occurrence, mitigate the impacts, and enhance resiliency in dealing with the wildfires in California. Headquartered in southern California and directly affected by these fires in recent years, Aspen was compelled to use our resources and experience in such fields as biological resources, planning, and engineering to provide assistance and support to agencies and entities affected by wildfires. Below is some of our recent experience in this area:

Staff Affected by Woolsey Fire Help Local Community with Repairs

Months after the Woolsey Fire, communities are still on the long road to recovery. Devastating wildfires destroyed many homes and other structures, including public infrastructure. This infrastructure included things like guard rails, telephone poles, electrical distribution poles, and even flood control structures. These damaged facilities needed to be repaired before the winter rains, to provide the protection needed for public safety.

Aspen had the opportunity to help the local community prepare for post-fire storms by facilitating emergency repairs at several debris basins in the Santa Monica Mountains that were damaged by the Woolsey Fire. Aspen helped obtain emergency permits and monitored the repairs to ensure sensitive resources were protected. Aspen’s headquarters was evacuated during the fire and many staff members live in the Woolsey Fire area, so we were grateful for the opportunity to assist our local community with these repairs. Aspen is looking for more ways to contribute to local recovery efforts, especially where our knowledge and expertise are needed.

New Contract with Laguna Beach Fire Department

Aspen recently won a contract with the City of Laguna Beach to support the Laguna Beach Fire Department with California Environmental Quality Act documentation and permitting support for multiple fuel modification projects. Fuel modification is conducted at urban-wildland interfaces to reduce the amount of vegetative fuel that feeds wildfires and to provide “defensible space” to protect structures, infrastructure, and other development. Fuel modification projects can also include restoration projects that remove highly flammable nonnative vegetation and replace it with fire-resistant native habitat.

It is anticipated that Aspen will prepare two categorical exemptions, one for a 5-acre habitat restoration project, and one for installation of about 0.75 mile of cactus-dominated scrub as an ignition resistant barrier along Highway 133. Additionally, Aspen has been contracted to complete an Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration for the creation of fuel breaks behind homes in the Canyon Acres and Laguna Canyon areas. These projects will be completed by the City of Laguna Beach utilizing grant funding provided by Cal-Fire.

Aspen Begins Work on Fuels Management and Reforestation Projects in Angeles National Forest

In March, Aspen was selected by the National Forest Foundation and the Angeles National Forest (ANF) to complete the associated National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation for the Powerhouse Vegetation and/or Fuels Project and the Sawmill-Liebre Reforestation Project, both located on the ANF. The Powerhouse Fire burned approximately 30,000 acres of the ANF in May and June 2013. The goal of the first project is to complete forest health and fuel management treatments and the second project includes reforestation in areas affected by the Powerhouse Fire. The Aspen Team is currently conducting field surveys, and those field results along with impact analysis will be incorporated into Specialist Reports. Pending the results of the field work and analysis, the ANF anticipates the preparation of NEPA Categorical Exclusions (CEs) for each project, and Aspen would prepare the Decision Memorandums to support the CEs.


If you need any assistance in the areas of fuel management, predictive modeling and asset management, vulnerability and resilience studies, and greenhouse gas emissions and air quality impact/risk assessment please contact Chris Huntley at (818) 338-6714.