Heat wave draws 800,000 to Malibu

Fireworks near Malibu Pier July Fourth. There was local anxiety that there wouldn't be any fireworks in Malibu this year, as the City of Malibu did not post information until the last minute that two permits for displays had been issued. Photo by James Crowley

Triple-digit temperatures, dangerous rip currents and a mid-week Fourth of July kept lifeguards busy, but the long holiday week was mostly incident free.

By Vicky Shere / Special to the Malibu Times

As the dog days of summer got off to an early start, a record number of beachgoers descended on Malibu. Yet lifeguards and peace officers reported relative calm.

With inland temperatures reaching triple digits Monday through Friday and the holiday falling on a Wednesday, 800,000 people visited Malibu beaches July 1 – July 7, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Service said. Last year’s holiday, which fell on a Tuesday, drew 700,000 to Malibu’s shores.

Zuma Beach lifeguard Chuck Moore was ecstatic about the rescue success of his crew on July Fourth.

“We had the largest number of rescues in the county, the heaviest crowds, the highest surf and the strongest riptides,” Moore, a county lifeguard for 30 years, said. “We also had the most tired lifeguards.”

On July Fourth alone, there were 390 rescues on Malibu beaches out of 650 countywide, and 150,000 visitors-120,000 at Zuma Beach, Moore said.

From July 1 through July 4, there were 600 rescues in Malibu alone, Moore said.

Lifeguards were kept busy because of invitingly warm ocean waters, high surf and strong rip currents, said Moore, who has worked in Malibu 11 years.

“People over the hill wanted to get out of the triple-digit heat,” Moore said. “Parking lots were full at noon.”

By contrast to the frenzied pace at the beach, peace officers had a relatively low-key holiday period, a situation attributed to increased law enforcement visibility and the holiday falling mid-week.

There were no fireworks-related or major incidents on the Fourth, said Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station Deputy Ken Scheurn.

“We were very fortunate this year in that the crowds were many, but the incidents were few,” Lt. Debra Glafkides, Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station liaison with the city of Malibu, reported in an e-mail. “It is difficult to say whether the mid-week celebration had anything to do with it, as the crowds seemed no less large. Perhaps the Summer Enforcement Team/Patrol Deputies’ high visibility and diligence, coupled with constant warnings of our ever-present fire dangers and the crackdown across the counties on illegal fireworks had the greater impact. Whatever the cause, the desired outcome was achieved. I was fortunate enough to be able to get out on patrol that night in Malibu, and was very pleased with the prevailing calmness of the evening.”

California Highway Patrol officer Orrin Heitmann credits his good news-no fatal collisions and only 11 DUI arrests in the July 2-9 period-to a midweek, rather than a weekend, holiday.

“The holiday falling in the middle of the week kept people away and there were fewer motorcycles,” Heitmann said. “The combination of people staying closer to home and less motorcycle traffic really helped make these traffic statistics.”

Last year, there were eight DUI arrests during the four-day holiday weekend and also no fatal collisions, Heitmann said.