Utah town that raised $25K for Calif. wildfire relief braces for flooding, mudslides

by Hailey Higgins

WOODLAND HILLS, Utah — Experts predict a wall of ash, mud and water will, at some point, hit Woodland Hills sometime this year.

As the town of approximately 1,400 prepares for possible damage, homeowners came to the aid of a community that lost much more.

Snow-covered concrete barriers are the only defense for the town evacuated for two weeks last year.

“It looked like our house was a goner,” Ben Elder said. "We are right at the top of the hill.”

While still under a pre-evacuation alert, Elder and his family lives in the direct path of potential mudslides and flooding after the Pole Creek Fire burned in the mountains above.

“In the snow, we feel okay except the spring when the runoff comes,” Elder said.

Experts predict some kind of weather-related fallout from nearly two feet of ash on the burn scar.

“We were told there will most likely be an incident, maybe even a further incident every year for the next five years, either a mudslide, a debris flow, or flooding,“ Woodland Hills City Council Member Kari Malkovich said.

Town leaders want to build a retention basin. Malkovich is asking for federal and state assistance to help pay the multi-million dollar price tag.

“It’s almost a guarantee. Of course, it’s Mother Nature so there is never a 100 percent guarantee,” Malkovich said. “But it’s very likely something will happen.”

Despite the impending dangers above, the community collected $25,000 during a December fundraiser to help the town of Paradise, California that was decimated by fire.

More than 80 people were killed in November 2018. Thirteen-thousand structures burned during California's “Camp Fire.” It grew into one of the deadliest fires in US history. The donation by Woodland Hills won’t restore the town, but they hope it helps.

“It could have been us,” Elder said.

The mayor of Woodland Hills flew to California Thursday to donate the money.

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