Fire rages through Malibu
By Ryan O’Quinn / Special to The Malibu Times
Fire officials say four homes were destroyed and five others were damaged as a fire quickly raced from Bluffs Park to homes along Malibu Road on Monday afternoon.
At around 5 p.m. on Monday, a relatively small brush fire near Michael Landon Pavilion on the bluffs spread to the hillside below in a matter of minutes. The combination of high winds, warm temperatures and low humidity made a recipe for disaster as at least 20 acres were engulfed as the evening progressed.
During the day on Monday winds of 15 to 25 miles per hour swirled along the coast. Gusts of up to 40 mph made it difficult for shoppers to walk to and from their automobiles at Malibu Country Mart and Malibu Colony Plaza. The National Weather Service had issued a red flag warning for Monday.
“We were dispatched at 5:01pm,” Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Ron Haralson said. “The first units arrived on scene at 5:04.”
As the sun set and the fire spread, a large plume of smoke and flame-leaps of 50 to 100 feet could be seen along the coast as far south as Playa Del Rey. A small crowd gathered near Pacific Coast Highway and Malibu Canyon Road as fire engines arrived on the scene from both directions on Pacific Coast Highway and Malibu Canyon Road. In a short time, 300 firefighters were dispatched from Los Angeles, Los Angeles city, and Ventura County.
The Malibu City Council postponed a scheduled meeting as the council chambers were used as an emergency center of operations.
“Because we were in red flag weather conditions we had resources pre-deployed to the Malibu area in the form of engines, patrols, water tenders, things like that,” Haralson said. “There were various types of resources in the Malibu area in the event that we did get a fire. Unfortunately we did get a fire and it was very helpful to have resources already in that area ready to strike.”
According to reports, fire crews responded quickly, however, because of the narrow lots and the number of homes situated close together, the fire jumped from home to home rather quickly.
Ed Lozano of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, speaking to a local television station, said that while there was a loss of homes, the wind conditions could have been much worse.
“With a good, aggressive, coordinated effort, we were able to keep the loss [to a few structures],” Lozano said. “With a quick-moving fire and the homes packed together so closely there on the beach, we made a very aggressive attack and were able to stop it.”
By 6 p.m., traffic was being diverted through the campus at Pepperdine University. There were no immediate reports of injuries and one resident was treated for smoke inhalation. A shelter for evacuees was opened at Malibu High School.
Later in the evening a traffic sig-alert was issued for Pacific Coast Highway and traffic was blocked at Las Flores Canyon and Pacific Coast Highway and at Kanan Road and the highway.
Fire helicopters landed on the lawn in front of Pepperdine University and took turns loading water that is stored in special ponds on campus pumped from reclaimed water.
Investigators say they have not yet determined what caused the fire.