It won't take much to trigger a disaster in the Station Fire burn area this winter.
Even moderate winter rain could trigger landslides and catastrophic debris flows capable of striking foothill communities in the aftermath of the Station Fire, according to scientists.
A 45-member team of U.S. Forest Service scientists spent the last two weeks in the San Gabriel Mountains examining the effects of the 250-square-mile fire, which broke out Aug. 26 and remains listed as 98 percent contained. Although the team's report will remain under wraps for some time, the Los Angeles Times reported, the preliminary findings are in: Don't pray for rain.
Using sophisticated burn maps generated by satellite imagery and factoring in the breathtaking steepness of the now-denuded hillsides, the scientists warned that even moderate winter rain could trigger landslides and catastrophic debris flows capable of inundating many of the San Gabriel Mountains' 37 foothill communities, according to The Times.
Beyond that, they concluded that the trees and chaparral in the burn area will bounce back, The Times reported. But much of the wildlife that makes its home in the 655,000-acre forest was killed or dislocated, they said.
The San Gabriel Mountains have the potential to unleash calamity under normal circumstances, without fire to complicate things, according to The Times. They are mountains on the move; the rock is fractured and disintegrating.
Brent Roath, regional director of post-burn analysis and a 33-year Forest Service veteran, told The Times that as team members collected their data, they could hear the rattling sound of mountains falling.
"In some cases boulders are coming down from gravity alone. They don't need rain," Roath said.