On February 6, 2010, La Canada, California was hit with massive mudflows in the foothills, overwhelming flood-control barriers, damaging dozens of homes and smashing cars on fire-ravaged hillside communities. At least 43 homes were damaged, including nine that were red-tagged as uninhabitable.
Officials ordered at least 540 evacuations throughout La Canada Flintridge, La Crescenta and parts of Acton, where hillsides had been stripped bare during last year's Station Fire. In a truly local effort, Kiwanis Club Of La Canada took the lead in coordinating volunteer efforts to help the mudslide victims.
Working with La Canada City Hall, LA County Sheriff's Department and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Kiwanis President Nick Berkuta organized a command post to greet an outpouring of volunteers, which included hundreds of local residents and Kiwanians.
Armed with shovels and boots, Kiwanis bussed volunteers up the hill to help all residents who had contacted city hall requesting assistance. Working in groups of three and four, volunteers removed mounds of mud "4 feet high and 20 feet long," according to Kiwanis volunteer George Lutes.
Residents described the mudslide as a thick brown river that flowed down the streets and into backyards, carrying boulders, tree trunks and other debris that smashed through walls and filled homes with mud several feet deep. One family had to grab on to tree branches outside their home to keep from being carried away.
Numerous Kiwanians sustained damage to their hillside homes, including Pat Anderson, Tom Burrows and Bea Cirar. Their Kiwanis Club came to the rescue and spent days digging out mud, sifting through belongings and helping them save as much of their valuables as possible. Two cars were thrown into the yard of Tom Burrows, and Bea Cirar had a wall of mud 4 feet high in front of her home. Pat Anderson, who is also the president and CEO of the La Canada Chamber of Commerce, said, "I love this community. I wouldn't live anywhere else. I plan to rebuild as soon as possible."
"Kiwanis is here for the community. We will always reach out to help those in need," says Kiwanian Wendy Alane Smith.
Public works crews hit the neighborhoods with bulldozers and other heavy equipment to clear the masses of mud and rocks that blocked the streets, as residents chipped in with shovels and rakes to help neighbors clean out garages and yards. Officials with the Red Cross and other agencies set up evacuation centers at La Canada High School and a recreation center in Sierra Madre and were working to establish other locations. Local elected officials are working to get federal assistance.
Pictured: Kiwanis members Front row: Linda Magarian, Mary Gant, K-Kids President Taryn Smith. Back