Los Padres National Forest bracing for debris flows

Crews once battling flames of the Thomas Fire in California are facing a new challenge – an influx of rain creating dangerous mudslides.

“The fire and then the flood has been going on in this country for at least 100 years, more like 150 years,” National Forest Service Ranger Pancho Smith said running his hand over the Thomas Fire Burn map.

As the rain moved in, equipment used to dig and repair fire lines in the Los Padres National Forest moved out.

“We really pushed our people hard, did as much as we could and then pulled all of the equipment out of the back country, all of the crews out,” Smith explained.

Despite crews leaving areas in the forest still considered active Thomas Fire spots, Smith said there’s little concern the fire will grow. Attention is now focused on flood and debris flow prevention.

But the situation is unprecedented for even the most seasoned forest and fire crews. “We have fire, then we have flood, and then we have earthquakes. We think we train for it but this is beyond the scope of that,” Smith, a tenured Ranger, said.

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