As we examine the fine response to the current fires, it might be worthwhile to contrast this effort with the lack of control in the Malibu fire of 1993. The efficiency and cooperation among different fire companies was impressive. There had been planning and studies of communication between various counties.
In the earlier fire, the La Costa district was abandoned. There were no air drops, no fire engines at every lot. In fact, only one was stationed on Rambla Vista, while hundreds of fire engines from all the western states were lined up bumper to bumper on Pacific Coast Highway. These firemen were never given orders to save the houses on the hill above them. Their radios did not communicate. These firemen watched each house become a pyramid of flames.
A later excuse was about a violent fire storm. Another later excuse said there was no water pressure in the hydrants. Yet, three or four houses on Paseo Serra were saved by residents who found an ancient canvas fire hose and used available water. They would have saved many more houses, except the old hose was too short. This was accomplished even as the fire storm moved through the neighborhood.
It was apparent that no one individual was in charge. There had been minimum planning or none at all. There was no direction. The only major effort was to save Pepperdine University while La Costa and areas east were abandoned. The Malibu City Council, local fire departments, county fire departments, state agencies all fell short of minimum requirements. It was shameful.
If there is a future emergency, we hope there will be unity not panic, planning and communication.
Orrel P. Reed Jr.