Are You Prepared for Fire?

Annemarie DonkinBy Annemarie Donkin      September 18, 2020

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Are You Prepared for Fire?
Los Angeles County Fire Chief Drew Smith and the Sheriff’s Department talked fire safety at Topanga Town Council meeting.
Topanga had a close call on Tuesday, September 8, when an angry pickup truck driver hauling a utility trailer careened down Topanga Canyon Blvd. from Woodland Hills to Malibu, setting off two fires with the flaming, sparking axle of his trailer—one fire at Entrado Road and another on the southern “S” curves. A male suspect was finally taken into custody after a dramatic standoff in Malibu at Carbon Canyon Road that left Topanga with two roadside fires and tons of anxiety. The incident serves as a severe warning for Topangans during California’s fire season where more than two dozen blazes currently burn out of control throughout the state. The standard wisdom regarding wildfire is a fire that starts at Dirt Mulholland and Santa Maria Road will sweep through Topanga to Malibu in less than two hours. It takes 7-8 hours to evacuate Topanga, with one road in and one road out. Topanga residents need to take emergency preparedness seriously. Everything they need to know is contained in the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s “Ready! Set! Go!” program. (fire.lacounty.gov). The first instruction is to prepare before the bad thing happens and have a plan.
Photocredit: twitter/LACoFD
Always have a “Go” bag ready, prepare your house for evacuation, lock your doors, and pay attention to “Evacuation Warnings” and “Evacuation Orders.” If you’re anxious during Red Flag Days, call (310) 456-5783 for regular updates.

If there is a fire in the Canyon, prepare to evacuate and look for verified information at the Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness (TCEP) website (tcep.org) or updates on its hotline, (310) 455-3000.

At the September 9 Town Council meeting, Los Angeles County Fire Chief and fire behaviorist Drew Smith, while dealing with the Bobcat and El Dorado fires, joined the meeting to talk about fire safety.

“The vulnerability is there,” Smith said of the two fires in Topanga. “It was impressive to see three Firehawk helicopters simultaneously pulling water out of 69 Bravo and the super scoopers dipping out of the ocean. 69 Bravo has everything for combating a wildland fire, giving Topanga the advantage of good air coverage. The Los Angeles County Fire Department is investing in that to make it the best it can be.”

Chief Smith also commended the fire power of Los Angeles County and tremendous power of the cooperating agencies, including Los Angles City Fire, that regularly assist with wildfires.

“We have augmented type-three water tenders, fly crews, we make everything available to support Malibu, Topanga, and the L.A. City Fire Department mutual prep zone along Highway 27; we make the initial attack with L.A. County and the initial attack response from L.A. City,” he said. “We have darn near 100 to 150 people with seven aircraft ready whenever a brushfire starts in Topanga.”
Chief Smith also addressed the issue of evacuations in Topanga, saying there are strict protocols. “We interact with the Sheriff’s Department,” he said. “We pre-plan and have our Emergency Operations Center set up. We decide what intersections are going to be closed, which makes it very fluid and challenging, and have uniform and strict procedures that we stick to so we can be efficient and it’s less painful for people to evacuate.”

“The new language is Evacuation Warning (for when something is coming and it’s time to activate your Ready! Set! Go! Plan) and Evacuation Orders,” said L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Winn (retired).

“One can always evacuate at any time; as soon as the winds come up for Red Flag days, you can leave. An Evacuation Order is a lawful order to leave, so if you sign an evacuation waiver and if it goes to DefCon and your house is completely engulfed in fire, we are not going to make ourselves victims because folks opted out of leaving.”

Winn also advised that if you are evacuating, lock your house! “Batten down the hatches; if the fire department needs to get in, they can take doors off,” he said. “Bad guys like to get in on an opportunity.”

During September and October check out the OneTopanga homepage weekly for “Top Tips” and “Fast Facts” about emergency preparedness (onetopanga.com) or call (310) 455-3001). 
   
The Town Council Mask Program provides free masks to seniors and vulnerable members of the community.(contact@topangatowncouncil.org; (310) 455-3001).

Renew or obtain your 2020 Topanga Access Cards. First-time cardholders can call (310) 455-3001, then press 0 to make an appointment for a photograph.

The Topanga Town Council is looking for volunteers:contact@topangatowncouncil.org.
Annemarie Donkin

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