While many people worried that the Mountain Fire would burn the Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center in Apple Canyon, neither flames nor heat damaged the center, rather water and mud were the culprits.
Early Sunday, July 21, after the first rainstorm arrived, mudslides came down the mountain and through the center, according to Vice Abbot David Jokai Blackwell.
With the help of firefighters and volunteers, the Zen Center is recovering and will resume mediations Friday afternoon. It had been operating from a mobile office and cell phones all week.
Blackwell and Abbot Charles Tenshin Fletcher first returned to the center Wednesday, July 17, after their Monday evacuation. They walked the site, determining little damage, but observed several active fires on the perimeter.
“It was basically a green island in a devastated forest,” Blackwell said.
But Sunday morning the skies were dark with rain clouds and then they opened up. The Keenwild Guard Station reported slightly more than an inch fell there. But the meteorologist with the Incident Command Team, Rob Balfour, estimated 5 to 7 inches may have fallen at the top of the mountain.
More than a foot of mud — slimey black mud — Blackwell said, covered the property. The metal door for the workshop bent and was damaged from the mud’s force. The water system was affected and will need re-certification, according to Blackwell.
Previous work to clear the stream was beneficial, he said, otherwise the mud and debris damage would have been worse.
Later Sunday, a fire crew with a bulldozer happened to come to the site. These firefighters helped the center’s staff clear as much as possible. But as more rain appeared, they advised all to vacate the center.
For those who wish to help with donations of time or money, Blackwell recommends you visit their website at zmc.org/about.
In addition to clothing and food assistance from the Red Cross, Bonita Vista fire victims also received $500 checks from the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation of San Dimas, according to spokesperson Michael Tseng.
“We’re really very fortunate,” Blackwell said. “I feel a lot of gratitude and it will strengthen our community.”