‘We Have a Lot Going On’

Annemarie DonkinBy Annemarie Donkin      May 28, 2021

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‘We Have a Lot Going On’
PHOTO BY GREG DOYLE The CH-47 Chinook helitanker snorkels 3,000 gallons of water from one of 69 Bravo’s upgraded 8,000-gallon metal pumpkins that have replaced the 6,000-gallon vinyl/rubber pumpkins. This will increase the immediate “static” capacity of the four pumpkins at 69 bravo from 24,000 gallons to 36,000 gallons, a 50% increase. The helitanker comes online June 15.
The May Town Council meeting was held two days prior to the Palisades Fire incident, a shocking reminder that fire season has its own season: any time it wants. The good news is that the fire has been contained with no loss of life or homes; the CH-47 Chinook helitankers officially arrive on June 15; Canyon crime is down 4.2 percent; and James Grasso of TCEP is the new president of the Canyon SAGES, which has information about Operation Knock, a new sheriffs’ emergency assistance program. To keep up with all the local news, Town Council President Carrie Carrier and Vice President Alisa Land Hill co-hosted the May 12 Zoom meeting with reporting from the Sheriffs’ Department, CHP, County Fire, and the Canyon SAGES. Topanga Fire Report—In what seems now to be an understatement, LACoFD Acting Chief Drew Smith said, “We have a lot going on,” and that was prior to the Palisades Fire. Now that the fire has been contained, Topanga residents still need to know what they must do to protect their homes and community and always be prepared. Chief Smith’s caution for everyone in Topanga to “retain situational awareness” is as relevant now, after the fire, as it was before. “Our fire family is in the middle of brush inspections with the new requirement to create a five-foot resistance zone around each home. We also responded to 35 calls with zero fires but 24 medical calls; three service calls, one power line and a gas leak from the same caller; four neighbor disputes; and four snake calls. “We are 10 inches short of normal rainfall,” he said. “The fuel gets stressed and even with trees that appear to be healthy, the limbs break. There was a near miss on Greenleaf during an evening walk when, with no warning, a 4,000-pound branch fell across a family of four. Just know when we get into drought conditions, fuels suffer so be careful around large trees.” While, thankfully, no one was hurt, it was emotionally traumatic for this family, he said. The upgrade to 69 Bravo Helispot is in the works to change out the orange rubber/vinyl “pumpkins” from 6,000- to 8,000-gallon steel tanks to accommodate the giant Chinook 47 Helitankers. 69 Bravo stores 10,000 gallons of well water onsite in automated self-replenishing tanks, in addition to hookups to fire hydrants and water storage. On June 11 and 12, look to the skies for the Chinook helitankers as they run practice drills, refilling from 69 Bravo and making water drops above the Santa Monica Mountains. The official start date for this “game-changing” firefighting tool, according to fire officials, is June 15. To watch and learn more about the technology these modern-day helitankers carry in addition to water: https://vimeo.com/539307890/19951d2b26. L.A. County Sheriff’s April Report—Lost Hills Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Cerveny reported there were four incidents in the Canyon. “We had one grand theft of a catalytic converter from an unlocked vehicle; a woodchipper theft from a back yard at the 3900 block of south Old Topanga Canyon; an [attempted] theft from a locked car where they broke the window but took nothing; and a domestic incident with one arrest. Crime is down 4.2% from last year.” CHP April Traffic Report—Officer Casey Ramstead of the California Highway Patrol, West Valley Area, reported that for April, there was only one injury vehicle collision on Topanga Canyon’s north side and four [vehicle collisions] on the south side with no fatalities and one injury, two more than last year.” he said. Officer Ramstead also noted there were lots of complaints about street racing with increasing calls from Topanga. “Topanga is one of the least used roads,” he said. “We have more than 100 cars and hundreds of motorcycles taking over the 118, 101 and 405 freeways. In the Canyon, we are tracking them as best we can, but they are getting more sophisticated with legal stuff and they outnumber us. When we take them to the Sheriff’s Department, we give them a ticket that counts as an arrest. If they are put into handcuffs, they are detained; if they are put into the car, they are arrested. However, if we are not on the same page as the prosecutors or the court systems, then it is not a true arrest and it’s a slap on the hand. Legally, the motorcyclists have been emboldened by the court system and punishments have been greatly reduced. [We are] talking to Sen. [Henry] Stern’s office.” To report unsafe driving behaviors in Topanga and in the Santa Monica Mountains, please call CHP dispatch at (323) 259-3200. Canyon SAGES Report—Tam Taylor announced that James Grasso, known for his work over the years with TCEP and other volunteer emergency organizations, is the new president of the Canyon SAGES. Taylor said that Grasso had a “baptism by fire” when he obtained a second grant from Southern California Edison to pay for 80 Family Radio Service (FRS) units at $60 each. These were given away to residents “to use for notification when communication is down during an emergency.” The Family Radio Service (FRS) is a private, two-way, short-distance voice and data communications service for facilitating family and group activities with small, hand-held radios that are similar to walkie-talkies. Earlier this year, the SAGES received a grant from Edison to do a mailer in Topanga to inform people about Operation Knock, a self-identification program for people who need assistance from the Sheriff’s Department during an emergency. For more information: canyonsages.com. Topanga Canyon Town Council was founded by residents in 1977 in response to needs unique to the mountain community and serve as a liaison with Topanga’s official governing body, the Los Angeles County Supervisor’s Office. topangatowncouncil.org; onetopanga.com; (310) 455-3001.
Annemarie Donkin

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May 28, 2021

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