Heavy Assault Halts Saturday Fire From Spreading

Wave Fire

Aggressive firefighting efforts from the LA County Fire (LACoFire) Department, assisted by U.S. National Parks firefighters and LA City Fire, held two small brush fires to just two acres on Saturday, Oct. 10, preventing a potentially disastrous fire from burning out of control in central Malibu.

The two fires were first reported at 4:51 p.m. on Saturday—reportedly called in by members of Malibu Search and Rescue who were conducting training nearby at Pepperdine University. 

“One of our deputies immediately called in the fire, which gave [the fire department] the early opportunity to hit the fire quickly and aggressively,” a social media post from Malibu SAR stated. “Within minutes, several water-dropping helicopters and Quebec 1 and 2 (#SuperScooper) were on scene dousing the flames.”

The fire was burning in the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA)-operated brush area of Malibu Bluffs Park, across Pacific Coast Highway from Pepperdine’s Malibu campus and surrounded on three sides by residential neighborhoods. LACoFire arrived on scene at 4:57 p.m.

The fire, named the Wave Fire, was actually two separate, smaller blazes—one eventually burned about a half-acre while the other burned approximately 1.5 acres. 

Winds were reported coming in from the west with a moderate rate of spread, according to LACoFire Supervisor Melanie Flores, speaking to The Malibu Times Saturday. AccuWeather reported the temperature in Malibu at the time was 76 degrees. 

All lanes of Pacific Coast Highway were closed due to firefighting efforts between Malibu Canyon Road and John Tyler Drive for about three-and-a-half hours, with heavy traffic reported in the area. 

Firefighting efforts were aggressive, including an engine provided by the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and a helicopter borrowed from the LA City Fire Department.

“LA City sent over one of their ’copters to assist,” LACoFire Inspector Henry Narvaez with the office of public information explained. The fire was fought with a total of six aircraft—three LA County helicopters, one LA City helicopter and the Quebec 1 and Quebec 2 fixed-wing aircraft, “which everybody refers to as super scoopers,” according to Narvaez.

The two super scoopers came to Los Angeles in a lease agreement with the government of the Canadian province of Quebec beginning in September 2019. They are amphibious aircraft that refill large water tanks by flying over the ocean (or lakes or reservoirs) before dumping water onto flames during firefighting efforts. They were designed and developed in Canada. 

An estimated 60 firefighters were also on scene working from the ground.

Forward progress was halted on the fire at 6:04 p.m., just more than one hour after firefighters arrived. The Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station reported the highway reopened for vehicular traffic at 8:24 p.m.

Public information officers speaking on behalf of the department were not able to provide details about the investigation into the fire’s origin, except to confirm that an LACoFD investigation began Saturday. 

Investigators did not immediately respond to a request for comment.