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300,000 necessary gallons

LARC Ranch’s water tank could make the difference in the event of a wildfire

Posted: February 13, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 13, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Charles Sturkey, director of operations for LARC Ranch, walks past the 300,000- gallon water tank at the ranch in Bouquet Canyon on Wednesday. Signal photo by Charlie Kaijo.

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Being without water in one’s home is bad enough, but in Bouquet Canyon, being without LARC Ranch’s big water tank filled to the brim could spell greater disaster in event of a wildfire, ranch officials said Wednesday.

Should LARC Ranch’s 300,000-gallon water tank run dry, the potential damage from a wildfire in the area increases considerably because the tank is a major firefighting asset, said Charles Sturkey, director of operations for the county-run home for severely disabled.

With one of the ranch’s wells out and the operating at reduced capacity, “If we do have a fire, we’re in deep trouble,” Sturkey said. “We barely survived last time with all of the facilities we had, and now — I’d say we’re reduced to about 60 percent of our capacity.”

“Last time” refers to the 2007 Buckweed Fire, which roared through Bouquet Canyon on its way to destroying 21 homes and forcing the evacuation of 15,000 Santa Clarita Valley residents.

With about 100 disabled residents, including many with limited ability to move around, LARC Ranch didn’t have enough time to evacuate everyone, Sturkey recalled of the 2007 blaze. Everyone was moved to the ranch’s multi-purpose room as the fire “came over the hill like a liquid wave,” he said.

“The unfortunate thing about a fire — you have to experience it to realize it,” he said. “It becomes absolutely quiet. The sky turns black, and (there’s) this roar like an old freight train with no brakes.

“There’s an explosion with everything around you turning into liquid orange, and then there’s the wind that’s created from the fire behind it.”

Before the Buckweed blaze reached the area, Sturkey filled to the brim the ranch’s mammoth tank, which is usually kept about two-thirds full.

“The good news was that because the tank was full, we had sufficient water to help put out the fires not only on the ranch, but on the neighbors’ (homes),” he said.

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