Greetings to all friends of Sturtevant Camp.
As previously announced, Deputy U.S. Forest Supervisor Rachel Smith recently hosted a closed Zoom call to share a first-round report from the disaster assessment Team. The criteria for the report was that only those structures that could be clearly identified and were intact would be reported at this time. Buildings lacking a clear name or number, or that were destroyed and thus unidentifiable, would not be reported at this time.
- On the first reporting call, she was able to confirm about forty cabins intact in the main Canyon; there are other cabins intact, and other cabins damaged or destroyed—but those are not yet reported.
- Smith did say that the Team could not access Sturtevant from the south because of severe rock slides on the trail. Instead, they would make another attempt, coming down from Mt. Wilson.
Now this Wednesday evening, we’ve received the report of that hike, and: Sturtevant Camp is largely intact, including the historic main Lodge, Honeymoon Cottage, Manager’s/Host Cabin, and Cabin #s 2-3-4.
With you, we are tremendously relieved by this news; we are a bit amazed that the fire did not totally overrun the Camp, but most of all we are grateful.
We are also tremendously grateful to all those who put their lives on the line and in the air to manage a voracious fire that continues to burn.
Now about “Largely intact”: because the report was by photo verification, we note that we don’t have photos of Cabin #1, which was clearly marked. We also do not have photos of the Retreat Cabin, Bathhouse, and Ranger Cabin, but all these lacked signage and may be in the Team’s “unidentified file” yet to be disclosed (the Team was not from the USFS which knows the Canyon, but from L.A. County.)
If we lost some structures to the fire, we’ll add our grief to those permittees who lost their cabins. With them, we will have all lost irreplaceable examples of history in the San Gabriel mountains. And with them, we will assess how to renew our Camp’s capacity to welcome people to the Canyon. With this good news comes a new set of challenges, and the reality that it will be a while before we can resume hosting guests at Camp.
Along with not knowing which if any buildings we may have lost, we also don’t know what “intact” really means: there could still be some partial damage to roofs, for example. Similarly, we do not know the condition of our water supply: it would not be a surprise to find that our intake system (which is at a distance from the Camp) has been disrupted.
Given what we know about fire in the San Gabriels (based on the 2009 Station Fire,) the next hazard is likely to be winter rains and accompanying mud/rock/debris falls. These will threaten or impact trail access, which relates directly to the following:
- We do not know how close or to what degree the fire came to the Camp perimeter: if the forest uphill/above the upper bunkhouses has been burned off, that exposes our notoriously loose geology to rain. That could mean debris flows down the hillside to the bunkhouses that will need to be mitigated.
- We do not know the location or nature or extent of the trail blockage that prevented the assessment Team from coming up the Canyon—but it must be serious! Rachel Smith reported that she had planned to enter the Canyon herself to get a first-hand take on the situation, but the crew informed her that it was not safe for her—and she’s a former hot-shot fire-fighter and smoke jumper. “They’ve never told me that before!” she said.
- So, when pressed for a timeline of when the trail would be cleared of major hazards and permittees allowed to enter (all before the general public can enter,) she was honest in saying that all work crews on are the fire lines, and it would certainly be weeks if not months before we might have access.
In light of these unique circumstances, when we have any answers ,we’ll share those and invite your help in being part of opening the Canyon once again to everyone who loves the mountains. When we have any more detailed news on the Camp itself, we’ll post it here. Until then,
For the Board,
Deb, Paul, Suzanne, Danny and Gary