AGOURA HILLS (CBSLA) – More than 18 months after the Woolsey Fire tore through the historic Paramount Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains in Agoura Hills, cleanup and restoration efforts finally got underway Monday.

Debris removal at Paramount Ranch. June 29, 2020. (CBSLA)

Paramount Ranch’s Western Town, which was first used as a movie backdrop for Paramount Studios nearly a century ago, was devastated by the Woolsey Fire, which burned more than 97,000 acres back in November of 2018.

Several Western Town sets which had been used in TV and movie productions were destroyed.

Because the ranch is on federal land, the National Park Service did not qualify for FEMA disaster relief. However, the agency finally obtained the necessary funding, and NPS finally began the long-awaited cleanup.

On Monday, it began using heavy machinery to remove the debris, a process which will take a few weeks. It then plans to restore Western Town and its historic structures.

FILE — Paramount Ranch during the 2018 Woolsey Fire. (CBSLA)

“We know that this place means a lot to people,” NPS Superintendent David Szymanski said Monday. “We get 400,000 visitors per year to this site alone, and we want to bring them all back. So right now what we’re looking at, as the cleanup is proceeding, we’re also designing the buildings to replace what was lost.”

Last November, the NPS began testing burn areas for toxins ahead of the debris removal process.

In February, NPS staff cut down the “Witness Tree,” a towering century-old oak tree in Paramount Ranch which was scorched during the Woolsey Fire.

Western Town is closed during the cleanup. However, once the debris is removed, visitors will likely be allowed back in to see the structures that were not destroyed.

Cleanup efforts are also underway at Cheeseboro and Palo Comado Canyon’s Morrison Ranch area, according to NPS.

On Nov. 8, 2018, the 97,000-acre Woolsey Fire broke out south of Simi Valley. It then jumped the south side of the 101 Freeway near Calabasas and spread into Malibu. The fire destroyed more than 1,500 structures and was responsible for three deaths. It was not fully contained until Nov. 21.

The Woolsey Fire burned a staggering 88 percent of National Park Service land in the Santa Monica Mountains.

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