2018 Woolsey Fire

Map of Woolsey Fire Burn Area
Map of Woolsey Fire Burn Area

National Park Service

The incredibly destructive Woolsey Fire started on November 8, 2018 near the Santa Susana Field Laboratory above Simi Valley near the boundary between Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Santa Ana winds pushed the fire in a southerly direction the first day. It then crossed the 101 Freeway between the San Fernando Valley and the Conejo Valley and headed into the Santa Monica Mountains.

It will take us time to fully assess the damage and determine the best of course of action to take in the near future. Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area sustained significant damage from the Woolsey Fire. It burned almost 100,000 acres of land. Most of Western Town at Paramount Ranch was destroyed, as well as the 1927 Peter Strauss Ranch house, the Rocky Oaks ranger residence and museum building, and a part of the UCLA La Kretz Field Station.

Please note that many areas of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area remain closed due to the destruction caused by the Woolsey Fire. Some areas may remain closed for an extended period of time due to safety hazards and to allow revegetation of many sensitive areas.

Map of closed federal sites within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area post-Woolsey Fire. (PDF)

The following areas are open:

  • Paramount Ranch
  • The Santa Monica Mountains Visitor Center at King Gillette Ranch
  • Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyons
  • Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa
  • Sandstone Peak Trail
  • Franklin Canyon
  • Fryman Canyon
  • ...and any other unburned areas of the National Recreation Area are open for regular park visitation.

In anticipation of or during inclement weather, some areas may close. There are many other land management agencies in the National Recreation Area, such as California State Parks and Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority (MRCA). Please consult with each area for respective closures of their oversight.

At this point, 21,000 of the 23,595 National Park Service acres (88%) within the park boundary burned. Our park partners, California State Parks, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, also sustained significant damage. The numbers being used above are Ownership Acres, which is different from Direct Protection Area Acres - the latter which is used to calculate cost.

The Woolsey Fire has burned more acres within Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area than any other fire in recorded history. Prior to the Woolsey Fire, the biggest park fire was the 1993 Green Meadows Fire at 38,000 acres. The 1970 Clampitt Fire burned 115,537 acres, but it did not burn nearly as much within the recreation area.

Peter Strauss Ranch Woolsey Fire 2018
Peter Strauss Ranch post Woolsey Fire

National Park Service

Structural damage within the park:

  • Most of Western Town at Paramount Ranch, a National Historic Register site, including one park residence. This is the only site in the National Park Service that interprets American film history. It is still a working movie ranch that allows the public to see filmmaking in action.
  • The 1926 Peter Strauss Ranch home/Harry Miller House was significantly damaged. From its history as Lake Enchanto, a precursor to larger amusement parks like Disneyland, Peter Strauss Ranch has gone through many changes over the years. The amphitheater survived the fire and we look forward to continuing to host the Tiny Porch Summer Concert Series at the venue, as well as many other special events.
  • Most of the joint National Park Service/UCLA La Kretz Research Center
  • The Rocky Oaks ranger residence and attached archives building
  • The Arroyo Sequit ranger residence
Cleanup from Woolsey Fire
National Park Service rangers assessing federal property post Woolsey Fire

National Park Service

Fire, Ecology and Wildlife in the Santa Monica Mountains
Though fire is a natural part of the ecosystem, too much fire can harm plant communities, reduce wildlife habitat, and actually increase future fire risk. Historically, scientists believe that coastal Southern California only had a fire every 100 years or so. Current fires (more than every 20 years) are not natural.

If the landscape burns more than once in a 20-year span, invasive weeds and grasses can establish themselves, making the area even more prone to fire. Invasive weeds and grasses, also known as “flashy fuels,” burn quickly and are more susceptible to wind-driven flames.

In general, large animals like deer, coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions can cover lots of ground and may be able to escape flames. Smaller animals have a much more difficult time. Reptiles and amphibians try to burrow underground.

Though it's too early to say how wildlife in general have fared with this very large and fast-moving fire, we have the following updates on the mountain lions and bobcats we are currently tracking:

Of the 13 mountain lions with working radio-collars in and around the Santa Monica Mountains, we can confirm with GPS locations and movement data that 11 of those mountain lions appear to be alive and moving at this time. Sadly, two of them succumbed to the fire or impacts of the fire.

P-74, a young male, was the latest mountain lion that we captured as part of our mountain lion study. His last GPS point was recorded at 1 p.m. on Friday, November 9, 2018 in a remote area of the Santa Monica Mountains between Yerba Buena Road and Mulholland Highway. This was the same day the Woolsey Fire moved into the central portion of the Santa Monica Mountains. Our biologists also went into the field and searched by foot, but had no luck. We believe that he had not yet dispersed from his mother who was not radio-collared. We discovered from remote cameras in late October that he was still traveling with her. He was captured in the central portion of the Santa Monica Mountains in mid-September 2018.

On December 3, 2018,
a biologist discovered the remains of P-64, known as the "Culvert Cat," an approximately four-year-old male mountain lion who survived the Woolsey Fire, but died a few weeks later. His cause of death is not known, but his paws were visibly burned. When the fire first broke out on the afternoon of November 8, 2018, P-64 was in the Simi Hills, north of Oak Park. He continued to travel throughout the Simi Hills for the next few days, covering several miles before then hunkering down in a remote area. Our biologist located P-64 on November 26 with a telemetry device in an unburned portion of the Simi Hills. This boosted hopes that P-64 may have been on a kill and surviving. The last GPS point transmitted by the collar was on November 28, but the collars commonly go multiple days without connecting to the satellites and transmitting points. Our biologist hiked in to the location of the last GPS point and found P-64’s remains nearby. He appeared to have been dead for a few days.

All four bobcats we are tracking appear to be moving. This is promising news. We're still not sure of their condition, however. It will take time for our biologists to gauge if their movements are normal. It appears the entire home ranges for all four have burned. Moving forward, we will see if they will be able to find the resources they need to continue surviving.


Last updated: February 8, 2019

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