Surfer Dies at County Line

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County Line

This story has been updated. Please see editor’s note below.

Over an inch of rain fell on Malibu overnight from Monday, Sept. 14 to Tuesday, Sept. 15, cutting off a record-breaking heat wave that rolled through Malibu last week, where temperatures climbed to the high 90s and even nightfall did not provide a break from the heat.

The rain has also provided a small degree of relief to high fire danger areas, where even a small ember can easily start a brush fire in the prevailing drought. Showers, clouds and lower temperatures also cut back on beach traffic, which reached holiday highs across the Malibu area in last week’s hot, bright sunshine.

The peak of the heatwave came on Thursday, the same day a surfer was killed at County Line Beach, just over the border of Ventura County. One day earlier, a power pole caught fire in Latigo Canyon, sparking a small brush fire and cutting power to nearly 1,000 Malibu residences during the hottest part of the afternoon.

Desiree Razo, a 36-year-old surfer out of the Venice area of Los Angeles, was killed a little after 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, while surfing at County Line, west of Malibu, according to Ventura County emergency personnel. Razo reportedly went by the name Desiree Zondag.

Razo was initially reported drowned at the beach when V.C. Fire was called to the scene, but according to fire personnel, she was found to have suffered trauma from a surfboard.

“Upon arrival, we determined the female had been struck by a surfboard,” an official with the Ventura County Fire Department reported. 

Ventura County Sheriff’s public information provided more information.

“We discovered that she sustained a serious laceration, and she was transported via helicopter to Los Robles Hospital. Unfortunately, she passed away.”

Beaches were packed in Malibu last week, with 41,000 visitors to beaches on Sept. 9 and 10 and an additional 352,900 visitors — more than the total visitors who came to beaches for Labor Day last year — at Malibu beaches over the weekend. However, Razo’s death was ruled by the Ventura County Medical Examiner to likely have been caused by impalement of her own board to her chest, rather than being struck by another surfer’s.

“It was ruled an accidental death,” V.C. Deputy Medical Examiner Zeb Dunn said. “She was out there surfing, and her surfboard was found broken.”

In total, from Sept. 9 – 13, there were 273 ocean rescues at Malibu beaches.

Latigo fire

An incident during Southern California Edison (SCE) work on a power pole in Latigo Canyon on Wednesday, Sept. 9 led to a small brush fire and a six-and-a-half-hour power outage to 997 customers, on a day when temperatures neared 90 degrees.

A call went in to L.A. County Fire dispatch at 1:27 p.m. Sept. 9 reporting the fire, five minutes after power went out to customers from Idlewild Way in the north to Malibu Cove Colony Drive in the south and Malibu Colony Road to the east to Ocean View Drive to the west. 

“Super scoopers,” fire department helicopters that dump ocean water on fires, as well as other aircraft and about 150 personnel went out to the fire, which was extinguished in about an hour. No injuries were reported and no structures were reported damaged.

The official cause of the fire, according to Deputy David Dantic, spokesperson for L.A. County Fire, was that SCE workers “were working on the power lines, and it re-energized a line; an insulator blew and fell into the brush.”

SCE spokespeople provided a statement about the fire.

“SCE takes all reasonable fire mitigation efforts while performing work, including the suspension of all non-emergency work when ‘Red Flag’ conditions exist,” the statement read. “Our crews are trained and equipped to suppress incipient stage fires after calling 911.”

Fire personnel confirmed there was no Red Flag warning for the Malibu area on the day of the fire.

“Typical precautions taken by our crews, including those working in the area Sept. 9, include having all Line Trucks carry shovels that can help stop a fire in its early stages, having all vehicles in the field carry fire extinguishers, and having all Line Trucks carry water which can be used for fire suppression in an emergency,” the statement continued.

Power was restored across Malibu by 8 p.m.

SCE is in the midst of a multiyear pole replacement project throughout Malibu and the state, designed to increase safety by replacing aging or overloaded power poles.

In May 2013, SCE agreed to a $37 million settlement for its role in the 2007 Malibu Canyon Fire. In October of last year, an underground explosion in an electrical vault on Heathercliff Road near PCH sparked a small fire and knocked out power to approximately 2,800 SCE customers.

Editor’s note: Additional information about Razo’s name was added.