Intellectually, Joe Kirk and the other volunteers at the Sylmar Independent Baseball League (SIBL) facility understand they are better off than many others who completely lost homes and properties to the Creek Fire that roared through the Santiago Estates and other parts of Sylmar last week.
The 22-acre complex in the 12800 block of Harding Street, which sits below the El Cariso Golf Course, was not reduced to ashes and dust. In fact, not too much of the fire actually touched the complex at all.
“The fire was near our home, across the street from the baseball fields,” Kirk said. “It knocked on the door, but I refused to answer.”
But the winds that were driving the fires, however, had a brutal impact.
Kirk, the league president, said three days of gusty winds that at times reached 60-70 mph pushed over trees, blew apart baseball and softball backstops, splintered wooden shades that covered the bleacher seats, and even knocked down a 50-foot flag pole.
He estimates the damage to the complex at around $125,000. And because of it, Kirk said, the 61-year-old youth Pony League might not have softball (which is scheduled to begin in February) or baseball seasons this coming year unless they can raise the funding for needed repairs.
“We call ourselves an independent because we’re the only organization that owns the facility we play on,” Kirk said. “We’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. When we have incidents like fire, it is all-hands-on-deck because we’re in crisis mode.
Kirk said when the fire started on Dec. 5, he soon realized this situation was different from others he had experienced.
“Normally the winds blow east to west out of the canyon. This fire and winds came north and south,” he said. “It made its way across, came right at the ball field’s doorstep, jumped the access road and stopped at the golf course.”
LA firefighters, and a little luck, kept the flames from engulfing the complex — “it would have destroyed it,” Kirk said — but the winds were relentless.
“We watched for three days, wondering what else we would lose,” he said
The league has received $13,000 from Supervisor Sheila Kuehl from her county discretionary fund, and other donations from the community are coming in. “One nice lady donated $500 out of the blue. She knows how important it is to keep the league going,” Kirk said.
But more help is needed.
SIBL has established a GoFundMe account. If you’d like like to help, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/sibl-baseball-and-softball.