Relive the Freeway Complex Fire at Brea Exhibit

People I know from the fire zone still talk about the Freeway Complex Fire that five years ago ravaged parts of Brea, Yorba Linda, Anaheim Hills and, ultimately, four counties, damaging or destroying nearly 300 homes and charring 95 percent of Chino Hills State Park.

Who wouldn't want to relive that?

Slideshow: Yorba Linda Fire Photos OC Weekly Freeway Complex Fire Archives

Actually, that's the sly point of a free exhibit that opened in Brea last weekend and closes this weekend. The presenter is Hills For Everyone, which founded Chino Hills State Park and has been closely involved with recovery efforts.

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"It is important to honor and make note of the losses and lessons of the Freeway Complex Fire," says Claire Schlotterbeck, the nonprofit's executive director, in an event announcement. "Following the trauma and devastation, residents and park supporters rolled up their sleeves to restore the land and do their part to create safer communities."

The exhibit includes colorful maps, graphic photos from around the hills, relevant articles and real-time video from residents who witnessed and recorded flames that, an Orange County Fire Authority After Action Report reveals, moved nearly 14 football field lengths per minute and ultimately consumed more than 30,000 acres of land in six cities.

Fire crews try to save homes in the hills of Yorba Linda on Nov. 15, 2008.
Fire crews try to save homes in the hills of Yorba Linda on Nov. 15, 2008.
Photos by Ted Soqui/OC Weekly

Another feature of the exhibit is Hills for Everyone's 100 Year Fire Study, which documents more than 100 fires that have burned in and near Chino Hills State Park to get a sense of where, why and when the fires burn.

"Fire scientists recently concluded that the best predictor of where a fire will burn in the future is where fires have already burned," Schlotterbeck observes. "And yet, three new hillside developments are proposed on lands that have burned numerous times over the past three decades--one in Brea, two in Yorba Linda.

"Let's hope decision makers learned the lessons from the Freeway Complex Fire. We may not be so lucky next time."

The exhibit is open from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday and Sunday at the State Park Discovery Center, 4500 Carbon Canyon Road, Brea. Admission is free. Bring the kids so, hopefully they'll learn something their land-planning ancestors did not. Visit Twitter: @Hills4Everyone.

Email: Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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