The government agency Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) recently funded a grant covering more than half the cost to build a new fire station in Corral Canyon. The grant of $230,000 was awarded this week in a unanimous vote by the SMMC—a sister agency to the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority (MRCA)—which is doling out state funds through the California Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan. The program enacted this year by Governor Gavin Newsom earmarks $536 million for fire resiliency funding, with $12 million to be dispersed by SMMC alone.
“When I heard about that [money], I thought we need to apply,” said Matt Haines, who was instrumental in the birth of what will become Fire Station 271 in Corral Canyon. Its inception began in 2009 when Haines, a 2008 Malibu Dolphin recipient, and 10 neighbors became what’s known as call firefighters—essentially on call for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The LA County Fire Department (LACoFD) required Corral Canyon residents to provide a minimum of 10 qualified people that met the requirements to become call firefighters. The community had to provide its own fire engine and a facility to house the engine.
“The community stepped up and did that,” Haines said. Ten men, including Haines, qualified and graduated from the academy, becoming call firefighters for LA County. A temporary facility was built on privately owned property in Corral Canyon. Although temporary, it was approved by the LA County Board of Supervisors due to its benefit to the community. A used fire engine was purchased that became engine 271. It’s been in service since 2010. The group has since responded to dozens of calls providing first responder services and backup to LACoFD.
Haines has quietly been working on plans to build a permanent station through the Corral Canyon Fire Safety Alliance (CCFSA), a community nonprofit. According to the Malibu resident of 30 years, CCFSA also provides fire preparedness education and resiliency programs for the community.
As a recognized fire safe council, CCFSA can apply for grants offered by government funding. It previously received grants from the Fire Safe Council of California and the National Park Service for brush clearance and education programs.
Through fundraisers, the community acquired $207,000. Malibu local Vitus Matare and Associates donated design plans for “a classic fire station for the community to house engine 271 and a patrol vehicle.” With plans and permits getting in order, “the big question” Haines posed was, “How do we as a community fund the construction of this facility still needing another $200,000 or so for geology reports, related fees and construction costs—a big ticket item?”
Haines, along with CCFSA Vice President Carlos Dell-Acqua contacted the SMMC, which was receptive to their proposal with a budget estimate of $230,000 for the driveway, foundation and building construction. With its matching funds of $207,000 for a total of $437,000 for the entire project, Station 271 is now one step closer to being realized. At the SMMC meeting with its advisory committee June 21 and with backing support from State Senator Henry Stern and former State Senator Fran Pavley, who termed the project a “no brainer,” members unanimously voted to fund the grant. Acting LACoFD Assistant Fire Chief Drew Smith “pushed this across the finish line,” according to Haines.
CCFSA is now gearing up to get permits in place for an expected groundbreaking in February 2022 with an approximate six-month timeline for completion and Haines will be volunteering his time to help build Station 271—”because that’s what I do for my community.”
Joseph Edmiston, Executive Director of SMMC, who’s often at odds with Malibu residents over public access rights to the beach, showed his support, stating, “I am very happy and supportive of this organization and community. The community came forward and their board came forward. This is a very good example of a community that says they are ready to help [fire resilient programs].”