By Andrew Tonkovich

A short, accurate if prosaic anniversary reminder appears at a default shrine commemorating memory-defining events of 10 years ago, thankfully not repeated as of this writing.  Impossible to write with certainty, considering the early October Canyon Fire and cleverly-named Canyon Fire 2.  The matter-of-fact summary, courtesy Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, in a display called “Gone Through Fire” reads:

The October 2007 Santiago Fire was the most disastrous wildland fire in Orange County in over 30 years.  In the rural communities of Modjeska Canyon, Silverado Canyon, Williams Canyon, Hamilton Road, Live Oak Canyon, and Trabuco Canyon approximately 1,900 homes were given mandatory evacuation orders.  This arson caused fire burned for 19 days and consumed 28,517 acres.  It destroyed 42 structures and damaged 14 others in the canyon communities.

Installed during CSU, Fullerton’s renovation of Tucker, a seven-foot taxidermy grizzly bear stands sentry to dioramas and photos acknowledging our firefighters.  Hopeful, and helpful, fire education elements include seed specimens of native plants, including the ironically named Lord’s candle.  Outside, identifying tags show the facility’s commitment to saying and doing, with coastal blue sage, alum root and gooseberry planted to encourage thoughtful consideration of our beautiful, if ferocious, ecosystem.

My own experience, then a parent with small child, cats and the burning (sorry) recollection of the Laguna Fire – “gone through,” to embrace the Tucker’s theme, a decade earlier --- is framed by the moment my wife and I stopped asking one persistent question, “Why should we leave?” and started asking another, an existential ante-upper:  “Why stay?”  We bugged out at nightfall on day two, driving over Modjeska Grade to discover a parked car caravan, locals assessing flames north and west encroaching on one home, later burned to the ground.  We stood, or stalled, yards from the once-iconic Carter geodesic dome, lost as winds did their best worst to remind us where we dwell.

Two canyon stalwarts, Joanne Hubble (unofficial volunteer public information officer) and equestrian concierge Connie Nelson weigh in on the anniversary.  Joanne points to solid relationships post-fire with O.C. Sheriff’s Department Emergency Management, Fire Authority, Animal Care, Parks, U.S. Forest Service and water district.  “Things have greatly improved over 10 years,” says Hubble.  She regularly disseminates information to 3,500 residences herself, and reminds me that Alert OC was born after the fire.  (Subscribers! Update phone numbers and add cells.)  Hubble and Nelson are justifiably proud of two new large animal evacuation sites.  And Connie announces a potluck for Canyon Watch.  Watch for an invite to learn about CW’s radio system and fire, flood and earthquake emergency response planning. 

Build the wall
Silverado Community Center is looking great, as renovation nears completion at Modjeska Canyon’s smaller facility, with new ceiling and lighting, fans, chairs and A/C.  Most impressive is the gorgeous river rock wall at the entrance.  Weirdest is the mirthfully provocative art installation in the patio space behind the building, an ordinary if impressive single, perhaps singular rock, aesthetically pleasing in the Zen tradition, mini-monumental (or only mental) and also easy to trip over.  

Can-do Mesa campaign
Inter-Canyon League VP Janet Wilson appeals to residents to join efforts to save Wildlands Conservancy “Mesa” property from sale to developers. Along with seeking county funds to purchase 600-plus acres, preservation activists invite pledges of between $1,000 and $1 million (!) at savecanyonmesa@gmail.com.  Trustworthy Maureen Voehl oversees grassroots matching fund efforts, with a website in development (sorry). Nobody writes a check, Wilson assures, until the escrow clears, with guarantees of permanent preservation by OC Parks or a reputable nonprofit.

The campaign follows delivery of 1,100 petition signatures asking Supervisor Spitzer to identify available public monies, and 500 postcards mailed (thanks, Paul Dixon).  Scott Breedon is administering Fran Williams’ clever lobbying canpaign, err, campaign, mailing Spitzer empty soda cans labeled “You CAN Save the Mesa” and “CAN you Find Funds to Save the Mesa?”  

Instructions:  Tape the lid of a clean, dry soda can, affix a label with Spitzer’s address, write a short, heartfelt message, pay about $3 and mail.

Mimi Walters downdate
Opposite of an update, it’s been another month of no response from Rep. Walters, her press officer T.W. Arrighi, or efficient staff, all demonstrating an impressive consistency, and living up to her reputation as outstandingly uninterested in providing minutes of town hall meetings, reports on public workshops, her advocacy record, or evidence that they know how to use phone, postal service or email. 

Fire buggy
In other curious political news, timing couldn’t have been worse for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, filing the latest iteration of its nuisance suit over the Rural Fire Fee as wildfires burned.  July’s repeal of the assessment hasn’t extinguished (ouch) their burning passion to protect 800,000 Californians and 31 million acres from governmental preparedness, prevention and abatement.  They filed a request for summary judgment on HJTA v. California Dept. of Forestry, with a December hearing scheduled in Sacramento.

Lauding librarian
Tardy congratulations to Library of the Canyons Librarian Shanon Delaney, OCPL’s October Employee of the Month.  Delaney received a special shout-out (shhh, librarians don’t shout) for administering bilingual story-time programming.  She and the crew get two days off this month, for Veterans Day and Thanksgiving holidays.  



Unhappy anniversary