By Margaret Magnus
When the December 2017 Thomas Fire hit Meher Mount, it only skimmed the corner of the outside trellis of the Visitor Center/Caretaker Quarters. The damage was minor. Estimated cost to make the repairs was $1,200. All that was needed was to replace three beams and apply some paint.
The amazing part of the fire was how it had avoided the entire building. There wasn’t even a burn path to the building. It’s as if the flame just reached out and licked the trellis corner as it was passing by.
There was some damage to the agave plant below, but nothing else nearby was touched by fire other than the southwest corner of the trellis.
Since the repair seemed minor, it moved to the bottom of the recovery to do list. Certainly, trellis repair was less urgent than restoring water, getting the electrical system up and running, and taking care of Baba’s Tree.
MINOR DAMAGE LEADS TO MAJOR REPAIR
When attention returned to the burned trellis, this “minor” damage became a major repair with a final cost of $22,200.
The fire damage turned out be a blessing. It drew attention to the trellis – which would have been totally ignored in the focus to take care of other fire issues and weed abatement at Meher Mount.
In starting to repair that burned corner of the trellis, it was discovered that there was some dry rot. A few days passed, and then there was more dry rot. And then there were live termites.
Suddenly, this project took on much more importance.
TRELLIS REPAIR AND UPGRADE
In addition, before starting to repair the trellis, it was decided to add a new and extended shade covering on the west and south sides of the building. After all, it wasn’t that much more expensive.
The new shade covering made sitting on the outdoor patios much more pleasant and inviting – not to mention protecting the wood from sun and water damage.
On the south side, a section of trellis with a stucco facing had to be completely replaced and a moisture barrier added. Much of the wood of the trellis on three sides of the Visitor Center was replaced. And of course, the entire trellis was repainted.
THE NEVER-ENDING REPAIR IS COMPLETED
As the repairs continued, it seemed that the trellis repair would go on forever. Finally, on June 25, 2018, the trellis repair along with the termite fumigation were completed.
One more fire recovery milestone reached. Thankfully, the Thomas Fire had led the team to action before there was even more damage from dry rot and termites.
The story of finding dry rot and termites in the trellis because of the Thomas Fire is just one instance in which the fire has been a blessing at Meher Mount.
In changing out the burned components of the water treatment system, former Manager/Caretaker Buzz Glasky tracked down a water treatment supply company that had a better, more comprehensive and cost effective system as a replacement.
In replacing some of the burned electrical components, the entire system from electrical poles to electrical boxes was improved.
The damage to Baba's Tree and the creation of benches using dead wood have generated a number of newspaper articles and brought new visitors to Meher Mount. The tree itself is in recovery mode, carefully tended by volunteers and professionals.
Due to the need for help with fire cleanup and recovery, volunteers have come from all over the U.S. to serve Meher Mount and be part of the recovery and regeneration effort.
The world-wide financial support has been amazing and heartwarming and made it possible for Meher Mount to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the Thomas Fire.