Many areas of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area remain closed. Some areas may remain closed for an extended period of time due to safety hazards and to allow revegetation of many sensitive areas. All burned areas and structures managed by the National Park Service are closed to entry. The following burned areas are opened to road and trail passage only: Paramount Ranch and Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyons. Rancho Sierra Vista, Franklin Canyon, Fryman Canyon and other unburned areas of the National Recreation Area are open for regular park visitation.
All areas may close in anticipation of or during inclement weather
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.
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.
The fire is 100% contained but it will take us time to fully assess the damage and determine the best of course of action. Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area sustained significant damage from the Woolsey Fire and, so far, it has 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 most of the UCLA La Kretz Field Station.
At this point, 21,000 of the 23,595 National Park Service acres (88%) within the park boundary have 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.
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
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 12 of those mountain lions appear to be alive and moving at this time. Sadly, P-74 appears to have succumbed to the fire. This 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.
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.