On November 8, 2018, the Woolsey Fire started in the Santa Susana Mountains above Simi Valley near the boundary between Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. The Woolsey Fire burned approximately 96,950 acres of land, including approximately 80 percent of NASA-administered Area II at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory.
NASA safely evacuated all onsite personnel and contractors, and fully cooperated with authorities and emergency responders. The fire resulted in numerous downed power lines and burned oak trees in the NASA areas at SSFL. In addition, all of NASA’s pipeline for the onsite Groundwater Extraction Treatment System (GETS) burned, and NASA’s onsite office lost all electrical power.
In the immediate aftermath of the fire, NASA personnel and contractors focused on re-establishing safe working conditions by clearing roadways of downed trees and power poles. A generator was brought onsite to power the NASA Site Management Office. NASA installed new, or made improvements to, the existing stormwater best management practices (BMPs) and groundcover to reduce erosion and to slow runoff during rain events. Once site conditions were safe and full access to NASA areas was restored, project teams began conducting more detailed investigations to examine fire impacts. For example, NASA collected soil and ash samples and accessed data from the four NASA air monitoring stations located on the perimeter of the SSFL site, and technical and subject matter experts conducted detailed assessments of historical and cultural resources and project facilities and infrastructure.
The Woolsey Fire swept through the NASA Test Areas, including all three eligible historic districts. All test stands and associated control houses at Alfa, Bravo and Coca Test Areas were burned by the fire but remain structurally intact with no damage beyond scorch marks near pedestals and a burned wooden staircase at Alfa Test Stand 1. A conditions assessment of the Burro Flats Area (CA-VEN-1072) conducted by an archeologist and a Native American monitor revealed that the main Burro Flats Painted Cave panel containing polychromatic pictographs and petroglyphs sustained no significant damage. However, one pictograph panel located in proximity to the site was lost due to excessive heat. In early 2019, NASA completed a pedestrian survey of the burned areas near existing cultural resources to identify and record any new resources made visible by the removal of the vegetation in burn areas.
The Woolsey Fire resulted in nearly a complete loss of the electrical distribution system in the NASA-administered area of SSFL. NASA is currently replacing the distribution lines in Area II. This updated system will use the latest technology and meet or exceed current construction codes, and prioritizes fire prevention and safety. As part of its fire prevention efforts, NASA will clear a 12-foot area around each of the NASA-owned power poles and place a vegetation barrier, topped with gravel. This will create a vegetation-free buffer around each power pole to prevent the growth of vegetation against the wooden poles. In addition, NASA re-evaluated system pathways during the design phase and developed a system with fewer poles and wires, further enhancing fire prevention efforts and reducing the manmade footprint onsite. To date, NASA has removed and replaced 32 power poles and anticipates replacing up to eight additional poles. NASA expects to complete the updated power distribution system by end of 2019.
Another ongoing reconstruction project is the removal and replacement of the GETS pipeline that burned in the fire. The GETS consists of groundwater extraction wells and a network of pipelines that deliver groundwater to a treatment facility located in Area I (owned by Boeing). The treatment facility contains a number of technologies including ion exchange, air stripping, and liquid and vapor phase carbon, which remove chemicals from groundwater. The Woolsey Fire resulted in nearly a 100 percent loss of the aboveground GETS pipeline in NASA Area II. In the months since the fire, NASA has removed approximately 14,000 feet of damaged pipeline in preparation for the installation of the new pipeline. Although the system was not running at the time of the fire, NASA conducted sampling prior to removal and affirmed that there was no contaminant release. With the rebuilt pipeline system, NASA will continue to use double containment piping to protect against leaks from primary piping. NASA is coordinating with Boeing to begin testing the system this summer. The entire GETS system is expected to ready for operation by the end of 2019.
NASA submitted air quality and other data to the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). The DTSC analyzed these and additional data gathered from field inspections, computer simulations, and sampling onsite and in nearby communities and determined that no radiation or hazardous materials from SSFL were detected in the communities following and that the fire did not present any risks other than those normally presented in a wildfire situation. In December 2018, the DTSC published their findings in an Interim Summary Report of the Woolsey Fire . NASA has also fully cooperated with the State fire authority Cal Fire, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and other fire investigators working to determine the origin and cause of the Woolsey Fire. Cal Fire is expected to release a report summarizing the results of their investigation in the near future.
View the daily progress of the demolition of the inactive hyrdogen tank located in the Coca Test Area. (no audio)
CEI - NASA Santa Susana Coca Hydrogen Ball Demolition
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NASA has published a Notice of Intent (NOI) in the Federal Register to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to the 2014 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), Proposed Demolition and Environmental Cleanup Activities at the SSFL . NASA will prepare this SEIS to comply with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations, and as a result of scientific data gathered from NASA’s soil investigation since 2014. NASA made the decision to supplement the soil cleanup evaluation published in its original 2014 FEIS because the estimated quantity of soil required to be removed has increased substantially. The NOI confirms NASA’s commitment to achieving a Santa Susana Field Laboratory cleanup that is protective of public health and the environment, based in science, technically achievable and is protective of the surrounding community and the natural environment. For more information on the NEPA process and NASA’s NEPA Program: https://www.nasa.gov/green/nepa.
On March 19, the NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) released an audit of NASA’s Progress with Environmental Remediation Activities at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory.
NASA has released the December 2018 FieldNOTE newsletter! This edition reports on NASA’s latest activities at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) including groundwater cleanup, fluid evacuation at the test stands, and final demolition activities in NASA-administered areas at SSFL.
NASA’s Site Management Office at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) re-opened on Monday, November 26. A generator is powering the NASA site office until electrical power is restored at the SSFL site.
NASA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and contractor personnel are working onsite to recover from fire damage, install/improve stormwater best management practices (BMPs) and groundcover in preparation for future rain events, and preparing to resume demolition activities.
This is the final status update. Subsequent Woolsey Fire information will be communicated in upcoming editions of the FieldNOTES newsletter or via news updates on this NASA SSFL website, as necessary.
NASA’s Site Management Office at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) remains closed due to the Woolsey Fire and will remain closed to non-essential personnel through Friday, Nov. 23. Key NASA personnel have been onsite assessing fire damage to NASA-administered areas and working to re-establish safe working conditions before field activities resume. There are numerous down power lines and burned oak trees and NASA has been working onsite to mitigate fire damage, help clear the roadways and power poles, and repair equipment destroyed by fire.
Fire swept through areas located to the south of Service Area Road, including all three eligible historic districts. All Test Stands and associated Control Houses at Alfa, Bravo and Coca Test Areas are intact with no apparent damage beyond scorch marks near pedestals and a burned wooden staircase at Alfa 1. Cultural resources within NASA-administered areas are in good condition. All petroglyph and pictograph sites are unimpacted from the fire despite the fire extensively burning chaparral and Coastal Live Oaks in their vicinity.
NASA assessments confirm no specific risks or hazards from the fire associated with contamination at the site. Fire and emergency responders, as well as state and federal agencies responding to the site, have determined the fire did not present any risks other than those normally present in a wildfire situation. Public agency statements are listed below.
NASA continues to communicate and cooperate with fire and emergency responders, state and public agencies, Boeing, and the Department of Energy. NASA will continue to evaluate site conditions for safety and environmental concerns, and will continue to address onsite environmental infrastructure and management needs, and will provide relevant updates on this website as they become available.
NASA’s Site Management Office at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) is closed due to the Woolsey Fire. The site is currently unsafe to access due to downed power-lines, blocked roads, residual spot-fires onsite and active wildfires in the local area. Only emergency response activities are permitted onsite at this time.
All NASA SSFL personnel and contractors were safely and swiftly evacuated from the site the afternoon of Thursday, November 8th. On Friday November 9th, key NASA SSFL personnel were able to briefly return to the site to secure critical paper files, relocate a government-owned vehicle and conduct an initial assessment of fire damage. On Sunday, November 11th key NASA SSFL personnel were again able to briefly return to the site to assess fire damage in NASA administered areas.
Initial observations confirm significant fire damage across the NASA SSFL site. Fire swept through all three historic districts. The Alfa and Bravo test stands are scorched but intact. The Coca and Burro Flats cultural areas have not been safe to access.
NASA recognizes all wildfires can present threats to the public, however we do not anticipate any specific risks from the fire associated with contamination at the site. Fire agencies responding to the site have determined the fire did not present any risks other than those normally present in a wildfire situation. Additionally, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is actively monitoring the fire, and DTSC emergency response staff, scientists and toxicologists have reviewed information about the fire’s location and do not believe the fire has caused any releases of hazardous materials that would pose a risk to people exposed to the smoke.
NASA will fully assess fire impacts and damage as soon as it is safe to do so. We will continue communicating and coordinating with fire and emergency responders, Boeing, Department of Energy and State agencies and will provide relevant updates here on this site.
Additional information on the Woolsey Fire can be found on the following pages: