The LA County Fire Department made quick work of a fire reported burning below Malibu Knolls in the Civic Center area during the predawn hours of Sunday, Feb. 28, despite high winds and dry conditions.
The fire did not cause any known injuries or damage any structures, although it burned very close to Webster Elementary School. It did, however, cause a long-lasting power outage affecting hundreds of Malibu customers.
The blaze, which was called in at 4:24 a.m., burned an estimated 4.8 acres of brush in the Malibu Civic Center area on Sunday amid high winds, but was knocked down as of 5:36 a.m. according to a spokesperson at LACoFD command and control. However, a shelter-in-place order for nearby apartments (in the Malibu Knolls area) was ongoing as of 6 a.m., according to a Malibu Times staffer on scene, and fire department personnel continued to work the fire as the sun rose on Sunday.
The fire was initially radioed in by LA County Sheriff’s Department Volunteers on Patrol (VOP), according to a social media post from the all-volunteer group (which stated a slightly earlier call-in time for the fire).
“Shortly before 4 a.m. this morning, LASD VOPs Mark Russo and Bill Melcher were ending their shift and fueling up vehicles when VOP Russo observed a brush fire on the hillside near Malibu Knolls,” the post stated. “He immediately put out radio traffic requesting additional units. Simultaneously, there was a report of a second fire in Serra Retreat which forced LASD and LACoFire units to respond to both locations. VOP Russo shut down the road and assisted LACoFire units deploying hoses. VOP Melcher assisted with evacuating residents.”
The fire also caused power outages including traffic signal outages for hours, as well as closures to Pacific Coast Highway and Malibu Canyon Road. California Highway Patrol reported Malibu Canyon Road was closed from Pacific Coast Highway for hours; Pacific Coast Highway was closed between Corral Canyon to Carbon Canyon roads until 7:45 a.m.
Local news radio station KBUU reported just before 7 a.m. Sunday that “about 700 customer accounts are blacked out in the Civic Center area, according to SCE. The first blackout was for about 70 accounts at 5:30 or so, then another 630 customers lost power. No indication from SCE if related to the fire, or when power will be restored.” Power remained out through the morning but was restored later in the afternoon.
KBUU later wrote that there was “no evidence of any homeless camp” near where the fire burned.
The fire occurred on a day of extraordinarily high winds across Ventura and Los Angeles counties, with gusts up to 73 miles per hour recorded at Boney Mountain in the Santa Monica Mountains, the National Weather Service reported. It also came on the last day of a very dry February. The NWS wrote in a post shared on social media that February 2021 was one of only eight Februarys since 1878 that did not record any precipitation in Downtown Los Angeles.
Julie Ellerton contributed to this report.