The expectation of hot, dry, windy conditions and the ongoing drought are expected to create dangerous fire conditions for Malibu in the remainder of 2022 and into 2023. The City of Malibu has been implementing preparedness measures to reduce wildland fire hazards and help ensure that community members are ready and prepared for a wildfire.
“Wildfires have always been Malibu’s number-one public safety threat, and the threat of wildfires has only grown more serious due to the extended drought,” said Mayor Paul Grisanti. “The devastating Woolsey Fire taught us that every person, household, business and organization in Malibu needs to be prepared so that together, we can protect lives and properties and be more resilient when the next wildfire strikes.”
2022 Fire Season Conditions Outlook
The Malibu Community Fire Season Briefing by Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACOFD) Assistant Chief Drew Smith showed that conditions for this fall and winter are anticipated to have rainfall well below normal in late September through December. Temperatures are expected to be well above normal through December. A near normal number of Santa Ana wind events is expected in October through December. Severe and extreme drought conditions continue for the region. Typical peak fire conditions in Southern California occur in October, November and December, with Santa Ana wind events coinciding with dry fuels before more fire-resistant green grasses emerge, resulting in an average of 8 high-risk days. See the presentation: www.MalibuCity.org/2022FireSeasonBriefing.
What the City is doing to prepare
- Working with Fire and Sheriff’s Departments and other agencies to prepare
The City is working closely with the LACOFD and Sheriff’s Department (LASD) and other partner agencies including Caltrans, LA County Public Works, State Parks, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MCRA), and others on wildfire preparedness and response. The Fire Department deploys additional staff and resources during fire season, and increases levels during Red Flag conditions.
- Monitoring and keeping the community updated about fire conditions
The City’s Fire Safety Liaisons closely monitor conditions, including weather forcecasts, wind, Live Fuel Moisture (LFM), relative humidity, temperature and dead fuel moisture to determine fire conditions for Malibu. They monitor police and fire radio dispatch, and go onsite to fire incidents to get timely, accurate, on-the-ground information for the City leadership. The City shares fire preparedness and fire weather conditions information with the community using its alerting system, website, social media, e-notifications, radio PSAs, as well as numerous outreach events in September during National Preparedness Month to help the public be informed and prepared. The City will send out additional messaging whenever hazardous fire conditions are forecast, not only during Red Flag conditions, or if a fire occurs that could threaten Malibu or could become a major draw on available resources that would respond to a fire in Malibu.
- Removing encampments
The Malibu City Council declared a local state of emergency to facilitate the removal of homeless encampments on public property in order to reduce the risk of wildfires associated with unpermitted and unregulated camping. The City is actively working to find and remove homeless encampments in partnership with the LASD Homeless Outreach Services Team (HOST). Every year, numerous fires in Malibu and many other areas originate from cooking or warming fires in encampments, a critical concern across the region. In 2021, more than 20 fires originated from homeless encampments. While they were quickly extinguished, any one of them could have become a major fire under the right weather conditions. The City has ramped up its efforts to address encampments, and so far in 2022, three small fires have originated from encampments.
- PSPS and other power outages
Power outages due to wind are common in Malibu. In addition, Southern California Edison (SCE) has, and will, proactively shut off power to sections of Malibu when it anticipates that high temperatures, winds and low humidity create dangerous fire conditions in order to prevent their equipment from starting a fire. The City has developed PSPS response plans, including sending out alerts and messaging on the website and social media whenever SCE is considering a PSPS, including power outage preparedness information; placing backup generators to keep key traffic signals operating; and setting up Emergency Information Stations staffed by Malibu CERT Team Members if needed. Caltrans, at the City’s request, has installed new backup batteries and highly reflective strips on the faces of key traffic signals on PCH in Malibu. The City and the Malibu CERT Team partnered to install radio repeaters to enable communications using handheld radios. The City has an agreement with KBUU FM 99.1 to broadcast emergency information, which can be received on solar, hand crank, battery-powered and car radios when the power is out. The City developed an agreement with SCE to set up a Community Resource Center at the Michael Landon Center at Malibu Bluffs Park to provide support to residents during a prolonged power outage. Learn more at www.MalibuCity.org/PSPS.
- Addressing fire hazards in the community – Fire Hazard Tree Removal Program
The City secured grant funds from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to continue removing dead and hazardous trees, a program started in 2021. The trees are removed that could pose a hazard to life and property because they are a fire hazard, a falling hazard, or could block routes to homes and neighborhoods for responding agencies or evacuating residents, or because they could make properties more difficult for firefighters to defend.
- NOAA Weather radios for residents
The City recently partnered with the Los Angeles County Fire Department and the County Office of Emergency Services on multiple events to distribute free NOAA Weather Alert radios to residents. The radios have rechargeable backup batteries and can receive and sound weather and emergency alerts even when power is out.
The City of Malibu recently joined the Los Angeles County public safety agencies, County Board of Supervisors District 3, and the Cities of Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, and Westlake Village in introducing the community to the County’s newly established official disaster response and evacuation zones and the County’s new Zonehaven AWARE online tool. The Zones and the Zonehaven AWARE platform allow first responders and residents to refer to the same set of Zone maps used for planning and conducting evacuations during wildfires, earthquakes or other emergencies. The system will be used during large-scale incidents that require evacuations. When Evacuations Warnings or Orders are issued, alerts and messaging from agencies such as Los Angeles County Sheriff’s and Fire Department will include Zone designations in addition to major streets and intersections. Residents, businesses, students, employees and other community members can visit the Zonehaven AWARE website https://community.zonehaven.com/ and enter an address in the search bar in the upper left, which will bring up information about the Zone, current status, and its emergency services. The Zones on Zonehaven are consistent with the Evacuation Zones (Zones 11-14) that the City established in 2019 as part of the Mass Evacuation Plan. The platform provides access to real-time status updates, shelter options and other valuable information specific to each zone. The Zone map will be updated in real time, so residents should check it regularly for status information.
What you can do to be prepared for wildfires right now
- Get the Malibu Survival Guide
Residents, businesses, students, employees and other community members in Malibu may download the City’s free Emergency Survival Guide, which is customized for Malibu, at www.Malibucity.org/SurvivalGuide or request printed editions to distribute to your neighborhood, school, or organization at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310-456-2489, ext. 368.
- Check your emergency plans and supply kits, or get started making them
Residents should review their household emergency and evacuation plans and check their “go bags” and emergency supplies to ensure food, water, medication, and batteries have not expired. Be sure to keep supplies for pets, including medications. Learn how to get started with City’s free Emergency Survival Guide, available online at www.Malibucity.org/SurvivalGuide.
- Monitor conditions to maintain awareness
Situational awareness is critical to being prepared for and staying safe during wildfires. Whenever dangerous fire weather conditions are forecast, community members should monitor local news on AM and FM radio. Sign up to receive Emergency, Utility and Weather alerts from the City by text and email at www.MalibuCity.org/news (scroll down to “Alert Center,” select Emergency, Utility and Weather); and from Los Angeles County at https://lacounty.gov/emergency/alert-la. Monitor fire weather conditions by following the National Weather Service (NWS) Los Angeles/Oxnard on social media at https://twitter.com/nwslosangeles and on the website at https://www.weather.gov/lox.
- Get prepared for evacuations
Know your Los Angeles County and City of Malibu Evacuation Zones (11 through 14) by searching for your home or work address on the City website at www.MalibuCity.org/ZoneSearch and Los Angeles County’s new Zonehaven AWARE website at https://community.zonehaven.com. Watch for alerts and other important communications regarding evacuations. When dangerous fire conditions are forecast, prepare your evacuation plans for a potential five-minute Evacuation Order and a one-hour or more Evacuation Warning. Discuss your plans with your out-of-area contacts, research suitable out-of-area lodging (including pet-friendly options), and establish a reunification site. Keep your vehicle’s gas tank full, and make sure you can open electric gates or garage doors if the power is out. Check on neighbors, family and friends who are disabled or elderly to ensure they are prepared and informed. During Red Flag conditions, people with disabilities and seniors who use wheelchairs or have mobility challenges, people who are dependent on medical devices, and owners of horses and other large animals are advised to not wait for Evacuation Warnings or Orders, as they may need addition time or help to evacuate safely
- Harden your home
The City’s Fire Safety Liaisons are available to visit your home, assess the property’s wildfire risk and provide a checklist of ways that that you can harden your home against the millions of flying embers that are a major cause of homes catching fire during a wind-driven wildfire. There are many easy and inexpensive steps to make a home more fire-resistant, including creating defensible space by clearing away dry, flammable material, furniture, and vegetation away from the house; covering eave vents with fine metal mesh; and performing brush clearance. To schedule an appointment, visit https://www.malibucity.org/firesafety or email FireSafety@malibucity.org.
Learn more about the City’s wildfire preparedness efforts at www.MalibuCity.org/FireSafety.