Malibu Prepares for Upcoming Fire Season

Two nearby brush fires—the first of the season—raised local concern last Thursday: one in Westlake Village, dubbed the Country Fire, the other south of the Ventura (101) Freeway in Calabasas. Though fire crews made quick work of the two blazes, they were stark reminders that with May comes fire season—and Malibu residents should do their best to be prepared. 

That preparation starts right at home, according to newly hired Malibu Fire Liaison Chris Brossard. Brossard is originally from Moorpark—he actually lives right down the street from Jerry Vandermeulen, who held the position before him—but has fought fires all over the country including in Virginia and Alaska. 

The new fire liaison stressed the importance of trimming back any ornamental vegetation within five feet of one’s home—as dictated by a city ordinance that went into effect in March 2019—and not using wood chips within five feet of one’s home. 

“Wood chips are basically a fuel source for an ember,” Brossard said. “They’re wood that’s mechanically ground up and dried out, they will burn continuously.”

The City of Malibu also recommends that residents check to see if their home address numbers are visible from the street. If they’re not, residents should trim overgrown vegetation covering or blocking the numbers in case firefighters need to find them. 

Residents should also take videos and photos of their possessions so they have documentation of their belongings and double-check that any fire hydrants on their streets are properly painted and marked. Creating a family emergency plan is also a good idea; that plan should include how to communicate and reunite after a fire, detail multiple evacuation routes and include a 72-hour survival kit. Lastly, signing up for city emergency text alerts and emails is also helpful—visit malibucity.org.

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In Brossard’s view, Malibu residents have been doing a good job preparing for upcoming fires so far. “They’re very open,” he described. 

“So far, in the time I’ve been here and the recommendations I have made, I’ve had nothing but positive feedback from the homeowners,” he said, mentioning that he has so far completed 11 home assessments in Malibu since being hired in early April.

Brossard said access is the biggest issue when it comes to fighting fires, describing how, in many neighborhoods, there are a lot of homes on steep, narrow streets with sharp hairpin corners.

Malibu residents should study the city’s new evacuation plans, which splits the city into four zones. Those can be found online at malibucity.org/Evac. The city also provides other tools such as “Ready Set Go” pamphlets and recommendations for fire-safe landscaping. 

The Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains is also holding a free online “firewise” landscaping class on Wednesday, May 12, at 7 p.m. presented by the water district. 

Residents may also schedule a consultation with Brossard by calling him at 310.456.2489, ext. 387 or emailing firesafety@malibucity.org

 

Brossard made clear that his job is to liaise between the City of Malibu and the LA County Fire Department, the agency in charge of fighting fires in Malibu. The county is supposed to take the lead during any fires, he elaborated; the city’s role is to support the fire department in anything they need. 

Brossard spoke highly of the LA County firefighters who knocked down the two blazes last week. 

“Is LA County prepared to attack a wildfire tomorrow? Their equipment is up, their crews are on, their helicopters are available and firing,” Brossard said.

LA, Orange and Ventura Counties “have each secured the use of a Chinook Helicopter for this coming fire season beginning June 15,” according to Simon T, a wealthy resident who years ago self-funded the construction of Helispot 69 Bravo on his property in the Santa Monica Mountains. (Simon T is his full legal name according to the LA Times.) 

According to T, the Chinook 47 is the world’s largest firefighting helicopter and has the capacity to carry 3,000 gallons of water. T said that all three Chinooks will be based within 14 minutes of flight time to 69 Bravo. Because of the Chinooks’ contract in Southern California, T wrote, the “pumpkin” water tanks at the helipad would be upgraded from 6,000-gallon capacity rubber/vinyl tanks to 8,000-gallon capacity metal tanks.

Now is also the time to prepare your home insurance in the event of a fire. Are you covered? Read more in our 2019 Disaster Guide: bit.ly/DisasterGuideInsurance.

More resources for preparing evacuation plans can be found at fire.lacounty.gov/rsg.

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