The day I have anticipated and dreaded has occurred. A fire broke out in the basin on September 6 at about 1:00. I could see the smoke from Sherman Oaks and I knew its location before I confirmed with Marianne and Richard Davis. They had driven to the basin and watched as the fire grew rapidly in scope and ferocity. Word on the street was that the fire had been contained to a six-acre area, but when I heard from Pat Bates the next morning, she estimated more like 100 acres burned. We met up and walked the reserve from Woodley all the way east to where the park joins up below the 405 FWY. I could see the blackened earth west of Haskell Creek and as we walked across the smoldering bridge closest to Burbank and into the Reserve. The extent of the devastation was obvious. There are still some trees, some bushes – the fire obviously jumped around a lot. But make no mistake: the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve is badly, badly damaged.
As Chair of the Sepulveda Basin Environmental Education Program it was hard for me to absorb the loss of opportunity for school children to participate in our outdoor programming, with its wonderfully rich diversity of plants and wildlife. It was painful to see the small group of lesser goldfinches perched on a dead bush, and the animals that had been outrun by the fire and perished. I thought about Muriel Kotin and all those involved with our chapter and the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Consortium who have dedicated their time to the establishment and maintenance of the reserve over the past 20 plus years. There have been too many losses this year and this is one more.
But what’s done is done. I am now beginning to think of resilience. As we all process this loss, hopefully we’ll begin to see opportunity amid the ashes. We and our colleagues can, if we want, be the knowledgeable and persuasive agents of change and progress. The Reserve can come back with fewer invasive species and more carefully planned features to increase the benefit that our students – and we ourselves – can derive from a reborn ecosystem. There is a lot of work ahead of us and we will need to draw on all our resources as we move forward.