Woolsey Fire Recovery Continues

Commuters can finally access Mulholland Highway from Kanan Road once more. A one-lane
bridge with a traffic light to control alternating traffic, has restored a critical route saving residents, local businesses, and travelers a circuitous detour that took them miles out of their way. Photos by Suzanne Guldimann

The Woolsey Fire recovery process continues. Dozens of federal, state and local agencies continue to rebuild damaged infrastructure and clear debris. It’s a massive task. Two road bridges destroyed in the fire on November 9 reopened last month in Agoura. The Old Agoura Road bridge is a permanent replacement, but the bridge on Mulholland Highway still has only one lane, regulated by a traffic light to allow for alternating traffic, while crews continue to rebuild the two-lane crossing. 

The one-lane bridge, which opened in early June, couldn’t come soon enough for residents and commuters who use Troutdale Road to connect Kanan Road to Mulholland Highway, but southbound Mulholland Highway itself remains blocked and is off-limits just up the road from the bridge, past the Seminole Springs Mobile Home Park, where more than 100 homes were destroyed in the fire. It’s unclear how long that stretch of road will remain closed but the reconstruction work required is reported to be extensive. 

It may be years before less essential bridges, like the multi-use bridges on the Backbone Trail and the Malibu Creek bridge in Malibu Creek State Park are repaired or replaced. Dozens of wooden bridges were destroyed throughout the half off the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area that burned in the fire. Bridges made from composite and synthetic materials were destroyed as well, leaving melted plastic and bundles of fiberglass thread.

The section of Backbone Trail between Kanan and Corral Canyon in Malibu is still closed to the public eight months after the fire. Charmlee Wilderness Park, Arroyo Sequit Park, Peter Strauss Ranch, and Rocky Oaks Park also remain closed indefinitely.

Caltrans announced last week that it is rebuilding a man-made slope adjacent to the southbound U.S. 101 between Reyes Adobe Road and Kanan Road in Agoura Hills due to risk of collapse from severe erosion caused by above-normal rainfall and damage by the Woolsey Fire.

Caltrans and county crews have been busy throughout the burn area replacing miles of guardrail, clearing and repairing hundreds of damaged and debris-choked water detention basins and replacing thousands of traffic signs. 

Almost all of the 1,643 structures destroyed in the fire have been cleared, but rebuilding is a slow process. On July 3, the city of Malibu announced that the planning department had issued its eighth rebuilding permit. The work continues.

When traveling through the burn zone it’s a good idea to slow down and expect to encounter heavy equipment and potential delays. Recovering from a disaster the size of the Woolsey Fire is a slow process, a marathon that will last years and has only just begun.

Although the bridge on Mulholland has reopened, the road itself ends just south of the Seminole Springs Mobile Home Park, where more than 100 homes burned. This stretch of the highway was badly damaged in the fire and further impacted by the heavy rains. It remains closed indefinitely.
Shiny new guardrails replace fire damaged material on Latigo Canyon Road. Caltrans and county crews are busy replacing damaged guardrails throughout the burn zone. It’s a formidable task: miles of railing must be replaced along some of the most remote, steep and dangerous roads in the Santa Monica Mountains.


Suzanne Guldimann

Suzanne Guldimann is an author, artist, and musician who lives in Malibu and loves the Santa Monica Mountains. She has worked as a journalist reporting on local news and issues for more than a decade, and is the author of nine books of music for the harp. Suzanne's newest book, "Life in Malibu", explores local history and nature. She can be reached at suzanne@messengermountainnews.com

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