The gates of Hell

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There is a very large elephant sitting in the Malibu City Council room. To date, to my knowledge, no one on council has addressed the remarkable false information provided by the city fire liaison at the emergency meeting on Monday morning Nov. 26, following the Corral Canyon conflagration. This individual assured the council members that the Beau Rivage gate had been opened, per “fire department understanding,” when, in fact; it was not opened until 8 a.m., long after fleeing residents needed to exit through it. It is also apparent that the RV “neighbors” never opened their gate for fleeing residents at all, and an illegally fenced historic pathway used by the Cavalleri neighborhood, also prevented evacuations.

The hard fact is, private property owners are not required to open their gates, as they are liable. The gates must be opened by the fire department or law enforcement, and don’t bet on that happening in the chaos and confusion of a firestorm, with limited resources at hand.

“The stage was set. Expensive hillside homes, some with wood shake roofs, built along narrow winding roads and next to open space areas containing eucalyptus trees and heavy fuel loads, on the heels of a prolonged drought. A brush fire, driven by Santa Ana winds complicated by multiple water storage tanks sucked dry, unable to keep up with the demand and panicked thousands fleeing their homes jamming the narrow streets impeding firefighters trying to respond to the unfolding catastrophe…”

Sound familiar, Malibu? In fact, this was a description of what has been described as the “perfect firestorm” of all time, the Oakland-Berkeley Hills Firestorm of October 1991 that destroyed 2,843 homes, 433 apartments and killed 25 people.

The tragedy endured by the Malibu citizens who have lost their homes in the recent round of conflagrations is unfathomable. Amazingly, there was no loss of human life.

I urge the City Council to immediately initiate crafting a plan for the opening of all private gates obstructing secondary access as soon as a fire is reported anywhere in Malibu, before there is human loss-of life of catastrophic proportions.

Elected public officials are responsible for the health, safety and welfare of their citizenry. Obstructed and/or lack of secondary access in extreme high fire areas is a certain recipe for disaster.

Exclusivity be dammed! Private gated communities obstructing secondary access have no place in the extreme high-fire environment of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Pamela Campbel