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Neighbors fight the runoff in Box Canyon

December 15, 2008 | 12:52 pm

In Yorba Linda's Box Canyon, Jay Hock and his teenage son worked with two neighbors to keep silt and mud from clogging a city drain at the foot of a gully running down a hillside along Foxtail Drive. With shovels in hand and dressed in rain gear during a light drizzle, they say this is what life has been like on a regular basis since the fires came through and scorched the surrounding landscape.

Taylor Hock, 15, took the day off from school and stood shin deep in muck as he cleared the area around a drain that was about as wide as an oil drum. Neighbor Bruce Williford worked nearby clearing mud that had piled up around some sandbags.  "We're trying to make room for more silt," said Jay Hock. "It's preventative maintenance. We're doing the city's work right now. They probably won't be here for two weeks."

The Hocks' 3,100-square-foot home backs up to a hill in Box Canyon that rises 400 feet high. When the fires came through, the property was surrounded by flames but survived damage.

Since then, the elder Hock said, he has been in his backyard every night, hosing down the ash that has been blown in big winds, hydro-seeding the hill, moving around sandbags, keeping drains clear of silt and mopping up the mud, silt and other debris that have found their way into his yard. "Our house is in a high danger area," he said. "We're the first in line to get hit."

Hock, who remodels swimming pools, said that on Sunday, he bought two 750-watt outdoor lights to shine on the hillside behind his home, planning to stick it out and keep watch for danger. By nightfall, he said, he "chickened out" and took his family to his Anaheim shop for shelter, knowing they were likely going to be evacuated.

"Those are big hills," he said as he pointed them out. Hock said he lied to get back in the neighborhood this morning, telling a police officer at a roadblock that he was returning for his dogs. He said the past couple of months have been "gnarly," and recalled a "chocolate river" that was flowing down one of the gullies behind his house when it rained on Thanksgiving Day. "You don't want to live here, or have a house for sale in here right now."

-- Christine Hanley