Malibu Escapes Unscathed From Dangerous Fire Conditions

Downed trees and power lines, closed parks and trails, widespread power outages, at least three fires—this week, Malibu weathered its worst Red Flag conditions since October 2019 and, despite a slew of wind-related issues, came out of the conditions with no lasting damage.

From Sunday night, Oct. 25, through Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 27, the Santa Monica Mountains and other mountain areas of Ventura and Los Angeles counties weathered some of the lowest humidity and strongest wind gusts experienced in more than a year, according to reports from the National Weather Service. The top wind speeds recorded in Malibu on Monday—the peak Red Flag conditions—were gusts of 69 miles per hour felt at Ramirez Canyon at 9:40 a.m. Monday and another 69-mile-per-hour gust felt at Saddle Peak at 10:05 a.m., the NWS recorded.

The highest wind felt anywhere in the county was a gust of 99 miles per hour felt in Santa Clarita. 

Power outages

The wind knocked out power to at least 3,300 Malibu residents, according to estimates from Southern California Edison, across much of western Malibu. A spokesperson for the power company went on record Monday to say none of Malibu’s outages were part of the power company’s controversial PSPS (public safety power shut-off) intentional blackout program, adding that Malibu was not under consideration for intentional blackouts as of Monday late-morning.

“The outages in Malibu are not related to public safety power shutoff,” SCE spokesperson Chris Abel told The Malibu Times Monday, later adding, “Malibu is not under consideration for PSPS right now.”

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Abel was not able to share what caused the outages.

However, later in the afternoon, the SCE website was updated to show the Cuthbert circuit—the power grid covering Point Dume, Ramirez Canyon and Winding Way—had been under PSPS consideration beginning at 6 a.m. Monday morning. The discrepancy was not explained.

In addition to residential customers going without power, traffic signals were dark at Pacific Coast Highway and Corral, Zumirez and Heathercliff roads.

 

Downed trees

Numerous downed trees were reported in Malibu and Topanga, including a resident who shared a photo of a tree in her backyard that had been toppled by a wind gust.

“First casualty from the wind,” Malibu resident Lori Ramey wrote on Twitter at 10:50 a.m. Monday. “It’s howling thru Ramirez Canyon right now. Lots of trees and branches down. Birds loved this Coral tree. Half of it burned in the Woolsey Fire. They said it would be fine.”

Numerous trees were reported down across the popular Solstice Canyon hiking trail in the Santa Monica Mountains. California State Parks closed the trail on Monday. “Trails will reopen when they are cleared,” a notice from the City of Malibu read.

Additional reports from the city stated trees were blocking Cuthbert Road near Harvester Road in Malibu Park and in the 6600 block of Dume Drive in Point Dume. Another tree fell onto a power line at Serra Road, approximately one mile north of Pacific Coast Highway. 

 

Fires

In every Red Flag Warning, the greatest cause for concern is the threat of rapidly spreading wildfire. As the NWS described on Twitter, “A #RedFlagWarning means that conditions are favorable for extreme fire behavior and growth if a fire starts.” 

The Malibu area had at least three fire scares from Monday morning through Tuesday afternoon, but none took more than an hour to knock down, thanks to increased staffing at the LA County Fire Department.

“The LA County Fire Department reported that it has augmented staffing, ready for deployment and on-duty resources have been pre-identified for strike team mobility based upon the need,” the city wrote in an alert Sunday. That resulted in a car fire on Kanan Dume Road and two fires in Topanga being quickly contained, despite high winds. 

The Malibu City Council meeting originally scheduled for Monday evening was postponed due to widespread power outages and was rescheduled for next Thursday, Nov. 5.

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