Beach fires, Evacuations and Fire Report Highlight October Town Council Meeting

Annemarie DonkinBy Annemarie Donkin      October 30, 2020

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Beach fires, Evacuations and Fire Report Highlight October Town Council Meeting
Tower 54 at Dockweiler Beach. Photos Courtesy of LAC Dept. Beaches & Harbors
When the Topanga Canyon Town Council met via Zoom on Oct. 14, Council President Carrie Carrier and Vice-President Alisa Land Hill presented a full agenda with representatives from L.A. County Fire, CHP, and the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department. The discussion quickly turned to fire as resident Julie Rosendo (an Executive Producer for Travelscope) expressed concern for the number of bonfires on Topanga Beach. “It’s all over Nextdoor,” Rosendo said. “We’ve seen them all along Topanga Beach for years, it’s getting much, much worse. Who do you call, what do you do? We are told to call this person, to call that person. A lifeguard said it was no problem because the wind blows it offshore.” Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Cerveny responded and said that if anyone encounters a fire on Topanga Beach to immediately call the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department at (818) 878-1808. “We can get there much faster than anyone else, we will call fire to put it out,” he said. “Call the station on the mainline, then call 9-1-1. If it’s on private property and if it looks dangerous, call the Sheriff’s dispatch, we will call L.A. County Fire and let them assess it. Don’t wait or be too afraid to call, use good judgment.” Additionally, The Canyon Chronicle contacted the Department of Beaches and Harbors for Los Angeles County, who has jurisdiction to determine the status of fires on County beaches. “There are no permitted fires on Topanga Beach or any other beach in the area,” said Nicole Mooradian, Public Information Officer, Community and Marketing Services Division, County of Los Angeles Department of Beaches and Harbors. “It is illegal to have a fire on the beach; if it’s on private property there is nothing we can do about it. But, fires are illegal at Topanga Beach. Unfortunately, the Department of Beaches and Harbors does not have enforcement capabilities, so we rely on our partners at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for enforcement of the County Code. “If people see a bonfire on the beach, we encourage them to contact their local law enforcement agency; in Topanga, that would be the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station,” Mooradian continued. “Fires are not permitted on beaches or in beach parking lots managed by the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors, with very few exceptions.”
Topanga Beach Firepit
Mooradian emphasized that none of these exceptions apply at Topanga Beach—personal fire pits and grills are also not allowed. (LACC 17.12.370) Additionally, Mooradian said that bonfires on the beach are hazardous to the local marine environment and beachgoers—especially when people try to smother the remnants with sand.

“The sand gets very hot and can burn unsuspecting beachgoers who step on it,” she said.

Topanga SAGES. Deputy Cerveny spoke of the logistics of evacuating vulnerable people from Topanga. “We were given a lengthy list of vulnerable people and visited door-to-door and up narrow roads to determine how to evacuate,” he said. “We visited 35 of 38 people, now we know where they all are, many have lived here 20-30 years, in most cases, they are just elderly. They have their stuff in the car, including medication, papers, pet food, a “Go” bag with their cars facing outward. I was really impressed that they were ready; really surprised and pleased with their tenacity and preparation. I want to give a shout out to Tam Taylor and Michele Johnson for putting that list together; we visited every single one of these people, talked to them and reached out. The word is out, be prepared.”

Tam Taylor responded and said that the Topanga SAGES really appreciate the initiative and action taken by the Sheriff’s Department. “We have really, really pushed on this, and it’s been great to have the support of the Town Council and the Fire Department,” she said. “It is so gratifying to see people step up for those who need special help. It’s the Topanga way.”
Beach Fires are illegal
L.A. County Fire Report. Megan Currier, Community Services Liaison, Los Angeles County Fire, reported on recent incidents in the Canyon. For the month of September, there were 65 total responses: three fires, 33 medical, six service calls, and 23 good intent calls.

“We had three fires, two on Sept. 8, with the truck sparking 10 acres. The next day, there were residual embers and smoke from the previous day’s fire,” Currier said. “We [also] had four snake calls in September.”

Community Events and Announcements: Topanga Town Council Mask Program provides free masks to seniors and vulnerable members of the community. If you need a mask, please call (310) 455-3001; or contact@topangatowncouncil.org.

NOTE: 2020 Topanga Access Cards. Renew your cards online. First-time cardholders should call to arrange an appointment: (310) 455-3001, then press 0 to leave your name and phone number. Call Lindsay Zook for an appointment at (310) 569-8931; or purchase online at topangatowncouncil.org.

The Town Council is looking for volunteers to help on various activities. For more info: contact@topangatowncouncil.org or (310) 455-3001.

GOVERNMENT CONTACTS
Third District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s Office—Contact Tessa Charnofsky at: TCharnofsky@bos.lacounty.gov; Phone (818) 880-9416

State Senator Henry Stern’s Office—Jeremy Wolf at: Jeremy.Wolf@sen.ca.gov; (818) 876-3352.

Assemblymember Richard Bloom’s Office—Tim Pershing at: Tim.Pershing@asm.ca.gov;
(310) 450-0041

About Topanga Canyon Town Council. Formed in 1977 in response to needs unique to the mountain community, residents created the TCTC to serve as a liaison with Topanga’s official governing body, the Los Angeles County Supervisor’s Office.
Annemarie Donkin

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