Malibu knows fires

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If you like Coastal Commission colonial rule over Malibu, you’ll just love the National Park Service’s plans to write a neighborhood-specific plan for fighting wildfires here. Moving very quietly, the feds began to draft a fire management plan for our city last week. This is the same federal government that turned away helicopters at the start of the Station Fire, allowing it to burn 250 miles of wildlands.

The NPS has hired a facilitator to go around the entire Santa Monica Mountains and listen to what communities want. They publicized this with a poster at Starbucks and a banner at Trancas. The articles in the newspaper, through no fault of the journalists, did not alert us to the depth of what was planned. Only deep in the Internet site can one find agenda items like “mapping exercise, identify priority projects, community priority vote.”

The Sunday session, covering the 575 or so homes near Trancas and Zuma canyons, was attended by just 10 or 12 households. They spent the afternoon telling the feds what the firefighting priorities should be on a street-by-street level, what the local priorities should be, right down to their neighbors’ swimming pool locations and evacuation routes.

The NPS is leading this effort, although the L.A. County Fire Department has signed on. The feds claim the city approved this initiative, although city participation so far has been limited to unlocking the door to the meeting room. Mayor Andy Stern and council member Pamela Conley Ulich tell me the actual purpose of the federal fire plan is a surprise to them.

It could be Washington is onto something, and that a regional fire plan is a good idea. But fire policy in Malibu belongs to our elected local officials, the feds are accountable to no one. If any public “grassroots up” input is needed, it should come from local volunteers who are already doing that, like Arson Watch, the fire councils in Topanga and Malibu, and other neighborhood groups.

Malibu is already stripped of local land use control by the Coastal Commission. Caltrans rules over our main street, the Water Board tells us to build sewers, schools are controlled by the Santa Monicans, the county runs our beaches, the state owns the pier and camping is controlled by Joe Edmiston. Now our local fire policies will be preempted by the NPS. Malibu has been caught off guard by the stealth federal takeover of Malibu firefighting policies. What will the City Council do to regain control?

Hans Laetz