Fire chief provides update on live fuel moisture ahead of fire seasonv
The Las Virgenes-Malibu Council of Governments (COG) Governing Board Meeting met on June 20 to address the Fourth of July weekend, the five-year rotation for deputies, and an update on the fire department.
Malibu/Lost Hills Capt. Jennifer Seetoo said the department will be taking extra precautions during the 4th of July weekend, given the events that occurred last year.
“Any large-scale events, we will have less lethal weapons immediately available,” Seetoo said. “We just want to be prepared. We are here to serve our community and make sure it’s a safe place for everyone.
As for the five-year sheriff’s deputies rotation, Seetoo said they’re unsure where they are at the moment.
The City of Malibu addressed this concern during the May 8 City Council meeting. While rotating deputies has been useful for breaking up some deputy gangs in the past, the City of Malibu recognizes that it is just one of many options that department leaders can use. The report includes a recommendation for the sheriff to provide a report to the Civilian Oversight Commission on his perception of the viability and likelihood of success of the rotational plan.
According to the report, moving deputies every five years would have a negative impact on the City of Malibu and all communities. Law enforcement efforts are strengthened by continuity and the relationships that are built within the community. In addition, during a disaster such as the Woolsey Fire, knowledge of the community, the roads, and the neighborhoods is critical for an effective response.
Seetoo said Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna provided a brief update on the contract cities meeting.
“He says nothing is concrete, it was just for consideration, so it doesn’t seem like that is being pursued right now and really that’s because all of you [cities] stepped up and really talked about how that would be detrimental to our community because our deputies— are a part of our community,” Seetoo said.
Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Drew Smith provided an update on the weather and upcoming fire season.
“We have been favored with 200 percent of normal in our rainfall, which is very good for us as we transition into summer, but when we know when fall comes, those are out high-risk days regardless of how many inches of rain we get, we get into a seasonal drought,” Smith said. “But one thing that this rainfall does do is it moistens our live fuel, so they stay lush and green for longer, so it actually shortens our prime fire season.”
In anticipation of fire season, the city tracks live fuel moisture (LFM), as well as relative humidity, temperature, and dead fuel moisture, to determine wildfire conditions for Malibu. The LFM is the percentage of water content to dry matter in live vegetation and indicates how likely a fire is to grow large and spread quickly. LFM can be as high as 200 percent and is considered critical at 60 percent and below.
This year, several months of above-average rainfall, coupled with cool, cloudy, and foggy days in spring and early summer, have kept moistures levels high for live and dead vegetation. This should delay the traditional wildfire season. Live and dead vegetation has already started to dry out. At its peak this winter, the LFM reached 190 percent, well above the historical average. As of June 9, LFM is at 116 percent, which is still higher than the historical average. Fuels historically get to the critical 60 percent level in late August, but fires can grow large even at 80 percent.
“We are favored right now with the live fuel moisture, but as we target into the third week of August is when I’m predicting we have a difference set of vulnerabilities on routine days,” Smith said. “But we will keep you posted.”
As soon as the lush vegetation dries out, it becomes fuel for a potential wildfire next fire season. To prepare, Malibu residents can get help with complying with brush clearance requirements by scheduling a free Home Wildfire Hardening Assessment with the City’s Fire Safety Liaisons. They will conduct a 30-60 minute inspection that follow the Fire Code and nationally recognized best practices and provide a checklist of simple steps to take, such as good brush clearance, keeping flammable materials like dead vegetation and wood furniture away from the house, and covering up eave vents with metal mesh. Proper brush clearance is required by law and is one of the most important ways to protect your home and property from wildfire, and to slow the spread of fires in our community. Schedule an appointment by emailing FireSafety@MalibuCity.org or calling (310) 456-2489, ext. 388 or visiting the Fire Safety webpage.
The next LVMCOG meeting is scheduled for July 18.