Letter: Campsites spell fire in Malibu

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As we sit here in February, winter, listing to roaring Santa Ana winds, we in Malibu are reminded once again of the power of wind and that our “fire season” is no longer regulated to merely a few months, the danger is all year round.

As a resident of this city, I’m respectfully asking that our city officials fact-check their statements that they are making to the residents of Malibu. There are current claims being made to the residents of this city that are not backed up by facts, far from it. To the point of being outright untrue. Including untrue claims that community centers: senior/teen centers, performing arts center can be built by this city at Bluff’s park, theses uses are not permitted in that area. Or that sport fields are unappealable to the California Coastal Commission.

The CCC is not in agreement. This City has a responsibility to our residents to speak factually. 

Malibu’s latest myth being touted by newspaper editors, city councilmembers, in city meetings and now spreading to the pubic claims that – in the history of the state of California legal camping has never been connected to a wildfire. This statement was, in fact, praised [Saturday] by council at your town hall meeting. As with most myths, this statement is completely untrue. We donít need to look back at the entire “history of California”, we only need to look back to last year, at even one fire.

Another fact – illegal fires can be started in illegal campgrounds. There is nothing to preclude a campfire from being started in a campground where campfires have been prohibited, as we can see below. Which is exactly the valid concern at Malibu campgrounds located in canyons. ìIllegalî campfires are routinely started in Southern California that turn into brushfires, Malibu has borne the brunt of that fact in Corral Canyon. Many brushfires also originate in close proximately to campgrounds.

As promised, here are a few recent examples in the state of California alone:

Wrightwood, CA. : Brush Fire Stopped Short of Ski Resort: August 26, 1991 – Firefighters on Sunday contained a 1,430-acre brush fire that burned to within a mile of a popular ski resort in the San Bernardino National Forest. About 850 firefighters from three agencies established fire lines around the blaze at 6 p.m. Sunday. Officials said the fire started Wednesday with a campfire in the Stockton Flats campground in the upper Lytle Creek Canyon area. It has cost an estimated $1 million to fight, said Bill Cunningham, a dispatcher for the U.S. Forest Service.

Ojai: Camp Log Blamed for Brush Fire: August 4, 1999 – A large smoldering log left in an abandoned campfire ring was blamed for a brush fire that burned for two days and blackened 200 acres of forest land northwest of Ojai, authorities said Tuesday night. The fire started about 11:40 a.m. Monday at Matilija Campground, a recreation area in Los Padres National, authorities said.

Ventura: Hungry Valley Fire 95% Contained: June 23, 2012 – The Hill Fire started at approximately 12:22 at Hungry Valley Campground, located on Ventura County land. Strong Santa Ana winds quickly pushed the fire into the Los Padres National Forest. A fire that began as a 2-acre blaze quickly spread into a 200-acre fire Saturday because of strong Santa Ana winds, officials said. The fire spread through heavy brush and steep, rugged terrain, making firefighting difficult.

Jamul: Brush fire in Pio Pico Campground: July 16, 2012 ñ A brush fire is burning in Pio Pico Campground in the Jamul area, Incident Page Network reports. According to IPN, the fire began at 14615 Otay Lakes Road. Cal Fire reports there is no threat to structures. Air support is at the scene. The blaze started about 1:45 p.m. at the Pio Pico Thousand Trails RV Resort and Campgrounds. The cause of the fire was under investigation. It started in light brush on the campground property, said Cal Fire spokesman Michael Mohler.

Ojai: Brush Fire Out of Control North of Ojai: October 22, 1991 – National forest: A brush fire in Los Padres National Forest tripled in size to 2,100 acres by Monday night as it burned out of control high in the rugged Ventura County backcountry 15 miles north of Ojai. They pinpointed its origin alongside California 33 in Lions Canyon Campground. Officials said there may have been some damage to campground restrooms.

Ventura County: Crews Battle 3 Fire in Los Angeles: June 23, 1999 – The season’s largest brush fire broke out Tuesday at a campground in Los Padres National Forest near Interstate 5 and had consumed more than 600 acres of forest land by Tuesday night.

Ranchita: The fire is currently at 15-20 acres: October 27, 2011ñ A major brush fire has ìlarge potential,î Incident Page Network reports. The fire was reported at 10:37 a.m. at a campground in Anza-Borrego State Park at Montezuma Valley Road and Wilson Road, approximately eight miles northeast of Julian.

Weaverville: Flat Fire in Trinity County grows to 1,066 acres: July 13, 2012 – The Flat Fire, burning 30 miles west of Weaverville in Trinity County, had charred 1,066 acres of forest and remains 30 percent contained. The Flat Fire, which started Wednesday at the Hayden Flat campground inside Shasta-Trinity National Forest, has spread north and east along the north side of Highway 299.

Glendora, CA: Crews Keep California Wildfire Away from Cities: Sept. 3, 2012 – Eight firefighters suffered minor injuries during Angeles National Forest blaze. The fire is believed to have started at Camp Williams around 2:15 p.m. Sunday afternoon and forced the evacuation of thousands of campers and picnickers it had grown to more than 4,100 acres, or roughly 6 square miles, and was just five percent contained.

Willows, CA: The Mendocino National Forest is currently engaged in initial attack on the Mill Fire: Jul 7, 2012 – The Mill Fire in the Mendocino National Forest has grown to an approximate 29,000 acres and is believed to be at 20% containment. The fire started near the Mill Valley Campground in Colusa County.

Lake Tahoe: Blaze Is Traced to Campfire: July 1, 2007 – An unattended campfire in a restricted area was the cause of a devastating wildfire last weekend near Lake Tahoe, federal authorities said Friday. The wildfire resulted in the loss of about 250 homes and 75 other structures and caused some $150 million in damage. The fire burned 3,100 acres (12.5 km≤), destroyed 242 residences and 67 commercial structures, and damaged 35 other homes. At the peak, there were as many as 2,180 firefighters involved in battling the blaze. The fire cost $11.7 million to fight.

Malibu: Corral Canyon blaze destroys homes: Nov 24, 2007 – Two men were sentenced to a year in Los Angeles County Jail for starting the Corral Canyon fire in 2007, one of the worst to strike Malibu in more than a decade. The five men who, according to authorities, started an illegal late-night campfire in a cave in the Malibu hills,

Stanislause County, CA: A 650-acre fire that is burning along the Stanislaus River was sparked over the weekend by an out-of-control campfire, officials said Monday.

Verdi: Abandoned Campfire leads to brush fire near Verdi: Nov 20, 2012 – Fire investigators say an abandoned campfire led to a brush fire that burned about two acres early Tuesday morning.

Santa Barbara: November 19, 2008 – Ten people who built a campfire were not charged with igniting a wildfire last fall that burned more than 200 homes in Santa Barbara and neighboring Montecito because investigators could not prove who caused the wildfire.

Kernville, CA: July 21, 2002 – An illegal campfire started the largest and most costly forest fire in the history of the Sequoia National Forest. The McNally Fire burned for 37 days and scorched 150,700 acres. It was twice the size of any fire previously recorded in the area. By September 8th, the fire had cost taxpayers $53,342,000 in fire suppression.

Wind Driven Wildfires Start CA Wildfire Season: Kern County and the Untied States forest Service are currently battling a 200 acres wildfire near Lake Isabella in Kern County known as the Cove fire, the fire is burning near Highway 178 and a populated campground.

Lake Arrowhead: Illegal Campfire Flames Doused: September 6, 2012, – Forest Service firefighters on Sunday afternoon quickly controlled a small fire located just off a dirt road west of Mountains Community Hospital that was caused when embers from an illegal campfire ignited vegetation.

Los Angeles: 650 Firefighters Battle Brush Fires In California: September 2, 1997 – Hundreds of firefighters Monday battled a Southern California brush fire that has burned about 5,500 acres and forced residents to flee dozens of ranches. The blaze about 60 miles southeast of Los Angeles was started by a camp fire Sunday, said a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry. About 650 firefighters, 10 planes and three water-dropping helicopters battled the fire as it moved east.

Temecula: Blaze Started by Campfire Burns 1,100 Acres in Riverside County: September 01, 1997, ó A brush fire in southwestern Riverside County burned about 1,100 acres Sunday, forcing residents to evacuate dozens of ranches scattered throughout the area, authorities said. Sparked by a campfire, the blaze began about 11:20 a.m. near Rancho California.

FROM FEMA:

USA:

Natural caused wildfires in USA > 121,849

Human caused wildfires in USA > 717,527

California:

Natural caused wildfires in California up to 2011 > 12,476

Human caused wildfires in California up to 2011 > 80,080

What Ignites the Fire?

The leading heat source of intentionally set outdoor fires, by more than five times the second leading source, is heat from open flames, such as campfires, or smoking materials (70 percent). Not surprisingly, this category includes heat from matches and lighters, which together account for 51 percent of intentionally set outdoor fires .

“On a yearly basis in the United States, typically more than six times the number of wildfires is caused by human means such as campfires and controlled agricultural burns than by natural means.” 90% of wildfires are caused by humans.

Citizens Working to Preserve Malibu