76-Square-Mile Area Quarantined : Medflies: Transport of unprocessed produce grown in Granada Hills and surrounding communities will not be permitted, officials said.


A 76-square-mile area radiating from Granada Hills will be quarantined for up to a year as part of the effort to control the San Fernando Valley's first Medfly infestation since 1990, officials said Wednesday.

The quarantine zone, announced after several of the crop-destroying flies were found in a Granada Hills neighborhood, stretches roughly from Vanowen Street north to the Los Angeles city limits and from Winnetka Avenue east to the Foothill Freeway. Among the affected communities are Sylmar, San Fernando, Pacoima, Reseda and Northridge.

Larry Hawkins, spokesman for the Cooperative Medfly Project, said residents of the quarantined area who cultivate fruit, vegetables or nuts on their property will not be able to move produce outside the area unless it is processed first.

"This thing breeds very quickly and there's a lot of ripe fruit around," he said. "We're very concerned that homeowners will take their fruit and vegetables and give them to friends and relatives. Then an infestation that is very focused spreads out."

Hawkins said quarantines for Medfly outbreaks last "as long as the entire (Medfly) eradication process," typically from 10 to 12 months. They are effective in controlling infestations because Medflies are not deft fliers and travel mainly by latching onto fruits and vegetables.

The eradication effort in Granada Hills began earlier this week after 11 male Medflies were discovered in traps at several properties near Index Street and Monogram Avenue. Workers on foot have already sprayed fruit trees and other plants on the affected properties with malathion, a pesticide. Beginning today, they will spray at homes within a 200-meter radius of where the flies were found, Hawkins said.

Next week, agricultural officials will add another weapon to their armory--the release of 40 million sterile fruit flies to prevent reproduction of the pests. "When you have this kind of insect infestation, you can't afford to sit back and wait," Hawkins said.

The Medfly, which attacks all types of California produce, is seen as a major threat to the state's $18-billion agricultural industry.

The Granada Hills infestation is the first in the Valley since the outbreak of 1989 and 1990 when officials quarantined 1,300 square miles of Los Angeles County, spent more than $60 million and sprayed much of the Southland with malathion from the air, prompting angry protests and hundreds of legal claims for health and property damage.

Officials are confident that if their other weapons against the Granada Hills outbreak work, aerial spraying will not be necessary. Hawkins said that according to studies by the state Department of Health Services, "there is not a significant health risk from the spraying we are doing." The quarantine zone around Granada Hills--covering a radius of roughly 4 1/2 miles from where the insects were found--is typical for a concentrated Medfly infestation. Hawkins said residents can ship home-grown produce out of the area if it is canned, cooked or frozen. "You can't give fresh avocados away to your friends, but you can make them guacamole."

Residents near the infestation did not seem too concerned by the restrictions.

"We have a plum tree in the back yard," Nancy Cannell said. "We really don't eat them. We do give them away, but we'll just have to tell everyone they can't have them."

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