Heat wave brings 455,500 to Malibu

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Malibu Beaches

With great weather comes great responsibility—at least for public safety agencies in Malibu. 

Last weekend was a prime example, as a major Southern California heat wave attracted 455,500 people to Malibu, causing a Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) headache and jam-packed beaches. 

“It’s like those Coney Island photos you see from the old days. People just on top of each other,” said Los Angeles County Lifeguard Capt. Chuck Moore of the Zuma Lifeguard Headquarters. 

“The front of [Zuma] Beach was pretty much full by 10:30 am,” he said. 

Lifeguards made 194 rescues and 170 first aid calls throughout Malibu between Friday and Sunday. None were life-threatening, but PCH traffic did interfere with emergency transports. 

“The highway was so packed here [Sunday] that we did have one leg injury that had to go to Oxnard,” Moore said. “We couldn’t go south to UCLA.” 

With temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s between Friday and Sunday in Malibu, Sunday saw a peak in activity, with 198,500 Malibu visitors and 110,000 who flocked to Zuma Beach alone. Approximately 84,000 visited Malibu beaches on Friday and 173,000 made the trek on Saturday. 

Sgt. Fran Lupian, who heads the Malibu/Lost Hills Beach Patrol team, said many visitors came from the San Fernando Valley to escape 100-degree temperatures. 

“We’re getting thousands of people from the valley who come over Kanan [Dume Road],” Lupian said.

The onslaught forced authorities to shut down the Zuma parking lot by 1 p.m. 

“That’s probably the earliest we’ve had a parking lot close in 10 or 15 years,” Moore said. 

The rising mercury was not merely a local phenomenon. Temperatures were sweltering throughout the western United States, with Death Valley hitting a record-breaking 129 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. 

Much of the same is expected for the Fourth of July holiday, beginning Thursday. 

“It’s going to be a four-day weekend. Let’s face it,” Moore said. “Parking lots are going to be busy every single day, PCH is going to be locked down. Malibu’s just the place to come to the beach now.” 

For people planning on visiting the beach, Lupian stressed that his beach patrol team will strictly enforce a zero-tolerance policy on anyone who brings alcohol, fireworks, barbecues and drugs. 

“Any violation, either smoking, alcohol or fireworks, will get citations,” Lupian said. 

Alcohol possession is the most common beach violation, Lupian said.

Lupian said the Beach Patrol team will be staffed with extra help for the holiday, with an added sergeant, two lieutenants, extra parking patrol officers and air support if needed. 

Marine layer eases July 4 fire concerns 

Though many inland and mountain areas were on high alert for brush fire danger during last weekend’s heat wave, Malibu Fire Battalion Chief Scott Salhus said his staff received calls mainly for heat-related medical emergencies. 

“We had extra resources staffed because of the extreme heat in case there was any fires,” Salhus said. “Luckily we didn’t have any situations like that.” 

High humidities and a “monsoonal flow” on Sunday helped avoid sparks of brush fire, Salhus said. 

For Fourth of July weekend, Salhus said the department will staff extra resources, like the County Sheriff’s department is doing. 

“We have additional patrols we’ll hire to work overtime, we have a helicopter at Camp 8 [above Las Flores Canyon],” Moore said. “We have a lot of standby.” 

But he does not foresee dry conditions between Thursday and Sunday. 

“I think it’s looking good,” Salhus said. “We’re supposed to have a marine layer and higher humidities and lower temperatures than last weekend.”