Fourteen major fires scorched through Southern California this week, including the Canyon Fire in Malibu that burned 4,400 acres as of Tuesday afternoon, October 23, destroying six single family dwellings, Malibu Presbyterian Church, two commercial structures, and one commercial trailer. At that time, 898 fire personnel were on the scene, and the fire was considered 15 percent contained by the Los Angeles County Fire Department, with hopes that containment would increase soon.
The Santa Monica Fire Department had committed two fire engines each with a crew of four firefighters, a battalion chief in a command vehicle, and a utility pick-up with a firefighter driver to that Canyon Fire, as well as one fire engine with its four-man crew in the Santa Clarita area to fight the Buckwheat Fire that started in Agua Dulce and burned down to Canyon Country.
Santa Monicans began and continue to raise money to support the firefighters and the evacuees and displaced families, particularly through the Santa Monica Red Cross (see page 15).
SMFD Captain Scott Ziegert assured local residents that otherwise off-duty Santa Monica firefighters were on overtime duty to staff the local stations in place of the personnel that were fighting the fires in Malibu and Santa Clarita. Those on the fire lines, said Cpt. Ziegert, were being rotated through by SMFD in three-day tours, leaving the equipment at the fire scene but providing a break for the individual firefighters.
There were only three injuries in Malibu’s Canyon Fire, all to firefighters and all minor. In addition to the buildings destroyed, nine homes and five businesses were damaged there. The cause of the fire is under investigation, but Cpt. Ed Lozano of the County Fire Department said that it may have been downed power lines.
The larger Buckwheat Fire had burned 37,812 acres as of Tuesday afternoon, injuring two firefighters and three civilians whose conditions were unknown, and destroying 32 structures including 15 homes. 15,000 people had been evacuated as 1,200 fire personnel attempted to protect 5,500 threatened homes. The County Fire Department said that fire was 27 percent contained and that the cause was undetermined.
In response to an email inquiry from Zina Josephs, president of Friends of Sunset Park, regarding how to assist firefighters, Santa Monica Fire Chief Jim Hone replied: “While on deployment, the Firefighters are well supported through the California Master Mutual Aid System with meals, liquids, and temporary showering facilities at what are known as Base Camps. Each of the 14 major fires now burning in Southern California has a Base Camp capability. The Red Cross often supports these Base Camp functions.
“The people who need the most assistance are those who have been evacuated or have lost their homes due to the fires. Those who want to donate food, drinks, services, supplies, financial support, etc. to the responders, evacuees, or displaced families should direct those inquiries to the Santa Monica Red Cross…There are no shelters set up in Santa Monica at this time, but the Santa Monica Red Cross chapter is assisting the Los Angeles chapters.”
Parents and children at Lincoln Middle School and Franklin Elementary School have been raising money to provide support for the firefighters. Franklin raised over $1,000 Tuesday morning, October 23, and Lincoln collected donations Wednesday morning, October 24. Both schools planned to pass the hat for firefighters at their annual fundraising carnivals this coming weekend. Funds will be channeled through the Santa Monica Red Cross, according to Lincoln parent Kathleen Reiss.
In addition to the Canyon Fire and the Buckwheat Fire, the 14 major fires burning in Southern California include the smaller Magic Fire at Stevenson’s Ranch near Magic Mountain. That fire has burned 1,500 acres, is 93 percent contained, and has resulted in no injuries and no structures damaged or destroyed. Cpt. Lozano of the County Fire Department said that the cause was determined to be construction workers welding.
When this reporter remarked on the apparently unprecedented extent of the Los Angeles County fires this week, Cpt. Lozano replied, “It was worse four years ago.”