Despite low attendence at local meetings where input is sought from residents, planners feel important ideas and information is being gathered.
By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times
The Community Wildfire Protection Plan for the Santa Monica Mountains took several steps closer to realization on Sunday during a public review meeting to discuss information gathered at previous meetings on wildfire prevention and mitigation procedures in targeted communities throughout Malibu.
The meetings are a joint effort by the Los Angeles County Fire Department, the National Park Service and ForEverGreen Forestry, a fire safety advocacy group, to develop a Community Wildfire Protection Plan for approximately 100,000 acres of the Santa Monica Mountains, including large areas in Malibu.
Already several months into the process, the plan is for communities to identify priority actions to prevent and protect against wildfires, developed at the source. Input is sought from local stakeholders who have intimate knowledge of public and private land obstacles to fighting future devastating fires, like the Corral Canyon fire of November 2007, which inflicted upward of $100 million in damage.
Tracy Katelman of ForEverGreen Forestry at the meeting on Sunday, which took place at City Hall, provided a review of maps and suggestions obtained in the previous meetings, all of which will be a part of one large draft proposal to be sent to community review committees in March. After a public review period, further commentary will be incorporated into another draft in April, with a final draft ready by June.
Top priorities identified during Sunday’s meeting are: community education on pool pumps; generators and home fire preparedness equipment; caches of emergency supplies like food and water organized for residents in safe locations; evacuation plans for handicapped residents; supporting the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program; and a strong no smoking campaign throughout the Santa Monica Mountains.
Residents on Sunday also identified with colored markers their own properties, as well as flagged community assets and critical infrastructure that may be at risk in a fire.
Hospitals, businesses, schools, churches, recreation areas, culturally sensitive sites, power substations and treatment facilities were all targeted, including City Hall, Legacy Park and the Malibu Urgent Care Center. Katelman and Julie Clark De Blasio, of the Santa Monica Mountains Restoration Trust, urged participants to specify down to exact square footage what areas need to be defended.
Despite the months-long effort, which has shown few residents attending the local meetings, some feel the planning is futile.
One attendee on Sunday, who declined to give her name, said, “I think you’re spinning your wheels. People are apathetic in Malibu. It won’t matter what you map.”
However, by identifying community priorities and concerns, and adopting a fire protection plan, neighborhood fire safe councils can apply for grants to implement those plans (grants.firesafecouncil.org), as well as organize into effective teams in the event of wildfire.
As the meeting went along, Brad Davis, the city’s emergency services coordinator, noted the focused enthusiasm developing.
“We might have had low numbers in terms of attendance to these meetings,” Davis said. “But we’re high in input. The suggestions we are getting are on target and will help enormously with developing a plan for Malibu.”
“After your home ‘hardening’ techniques, like brush clearance, these suggestions are what will do the most to preserve your community,” Katelman said.
More information and mapping documents can be found online at http://tinyurl.com/SMMCWPP. Two more public meetings will take place: For the Liberty Canyon/Lost Hills area, Jan. 13, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the offices of County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, 26600 Agoura Dr., Suite 100, Calabasas; for the Calabasas Interface area, Jan, 14, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Diamond X Ranch, 26412 Mulholland Highway.