Future Looks Grim for Burn Area

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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.

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