Possibilities for mudslides generally increase after severe fires scorch an area, Baenen said. Late in September a brush fire ripped through the Verdugo Mountains, consuming more than 1,000 acres. The fire-induced absence of brush and vegetation leaves the soil especially vulnerable to displacement, he said. Less than a month after the Sept. 29 burn, severe thunderstorms triggered mudslides in the Hillside District near Country Club Drive.
"Because there is no root structure, it results in the potential for mudslides because there's nothing holding the earth together," Baenen said.
The post-fire mudslide built up enough momentum to push automobiles and displace a fire hydrant. Since Country Club Drive acts as a flood-control channel, keeping the pathway clear is a crucial safety measure, Baenen said. To prepare for future mudslides, the Fire Department held a community meeting in December and put together an incident action plan, listing safety objectives and emergency telephone numbers.
"The goal is to save lives, protect the environment and minimize property damage," Baenen said.
The effort attracted Burbank resident Jim Kenehan, who has lived in the Hillside District since 1967. His property's location near the top of Country Club Drive makes him a great asset to the Fire Department for predicting potentially dangerous mud activity, Baenen said.
"By measuring the amount of water in a certain period of time and then based on how rainy the season has been, you can pretty much determine when the earth is going to start moving," Kenehan said. "I monitor certain things and relay this information to the disaster group."