Hector Castillo (left) and Elmer Monge of the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority
douse smoldering embers of the equipment storage shed behind the Towsley Canyon Lodge on Wednesday. Photo by Leon Worden. Click image to enlarge.
The Towsley Canyon Lodge and ranger residence look like an island on the moon today.
A Herculean effort saved them shortly after noon Wednesday when flames swept through Ed Davis Park, west of Interstate 5 and south of the Sunset Pointe community.
Owned by the state of California and operated by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (an joint powers agency headed by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy), Ed Davis Park is the local entryway to the 3,000-acre Santa Clarita Woodlands state park.
"At first it looked like it was going to move around (the buildings), but then it was sucked into the draw by the riverbed," Tony Scattaglia said.
On a routine day Scattaglia would be stationed at Whitney Canyon Park on the other side of Newhall, where he is an MRCA ranger.
But Wednesday was anything but routine, and MRCA personnel from all over the Southland were redeployed for structure protection and, when necessary, firefighting, at various park properties.
Their firefighting skills proved vital when flames converged upon the two-story, 1970s lodge and the Towsley park ranger's home from two directions.
"When (the fire fronts) got together, they created a powerful wind," MRCA staffer Milton Cano said. "(Eucalyptus) trees started to fall down. Animals were running all over the place. ... It just automatically lit up the whole sky. The flames were on top of us."
Deer, foxes, even rats scurried from the onslaught. A jackrabbit bolted from its safe haven in the outdoor men's room when the flames finally relented.
Miraculously, the only structure lost in the inferno was an equipment shed in back of the lodge.
Joe Edmiston, director of the state agency, rolled up his sleeves and helped fight the blaze.
"He was out there pulling hose," Scattaglia said. "He was on it."