By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
The Pacific Palisades Community Council hosted a public safety and disaster readiness forum during its February 11 board meeting, which took place via Zoom.
Nearly 60 members of the community tuned in to hear guest speakers, including LAPD Acting Senior Lead Officer James Allen, LAFD Battalion Chief Joe Everett, Captain II Mike Johnson and Captain II Mike Flynn, and PPCC Wildfire Safety Advisor Miriam Schulman.
Allen began the forum by letting the community know he will no longer be acting SLO for the Palisades after taking over on an interim basis as Michael Moore retired, but assured there will be no lapse in coverage.
As part of the forum, PPCC Chair David Card asked Allen about LAPD’s involvement when there is a fire.
“We play second fiddle,” he explained. “We drive the streets every day, so we would talk to the fire chiefs and captains, just for evacuation routes … but it’s all through the fire department first, we assist them.”
LAPD also does security for houses to ensure that people are not breaking in when residents are under evacuation orders.
Everett spoke next, explaining that because he lives in the Malibu Canyon area, he shares some of the anxieties that Palisadians might have when it comes to potential brush fires.
“This place is a little more than just an assignment to me, it’s near and dear to my heart,” he shared. “I take a lot of pride in working here and so far, I’ve loved all of the interactions I’ve had and—knock on wood—at least the incidents that I’ve been involved in, I would say have gone well but there’s always something to learn.”
He assured the audience that when there is a large fire or multiple fires burning throughout Southern California concurrently, and resources get spread thin, LAFD will do everything they can to keep the proper amount of resources in the area.
“In fact, we’ll start staffing up and moving more resources to the Palisades area or the West LA area prior to the fire burning when we see an increase in wind and fire danger,” he explained.
Everett shared a slideshow, which included images of historic fires that have burned in the Palisades. One of the images was of the Palisades fire, which broke out in October 2019 in the Highlands/Marquez Knolls area.
“One of the reasons that I chose this picture is the defensible space some of these houses have in front of them,” he explained. “That allows us, as firefighters, to get in there between the house and the brush, and start protecting your houses, that’s where defensible space comes in handy.”
Everett then explained the importance of Ready, Set, Go: Being ready, he said, prior to a fire coming means hardening a home and clearing brush. Getting set means having an action plan, including an evacuation plan for the home, family and pets, and having an emergency supply kit with a weeks’ worth of medicine, clothing and food ready.
He then welcomed Flynn, who presented information about different technologies LAFD uses to see fires and predict where they may burn—with one system in place that can predict a fire location and give firefighters the ability to go “hours in advance.”
Wildfire Safety Advisor Schulman concluded the meeting with a presentation on what Palisadians can do to make their homes fire resistant, including brush clearance and “working from the top down”—ensuring the right roofing material is used.
Schulman recommended keeping roofs and gutters clean of any buildup of dead material, including pine needles and leaves. She explained that green, healthy landscaping is not as likely to catch fire as dead trees, a pile of wood up against a house for the fireplace or paint material stored under a deck.
She reported that having wooden trellises with dead vines leaning up against a house can be a “recipe for disaster.” She also explained that embers can travel through vents that are not properly screened and start a fire in an attic.
Schulman is available and certified by the National Fire Prevention Association to do evaluations of the exterior of homes for wildfire vulnerability. Her contact information is available at the PPCC website: pacpalicc.org.
PPCC will host a second forum at its next meeting, which is scheduled for February 25.
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