By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
A recent Pacific Palisades Community Council meeting on Thursday, November 14, was the latest platform for agencies involved in the Getty and Palisades fires to debrief, addressing what happened and why.
The discussion began with a presentation by Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion 9 Chief Mark Curry, who worked through both fires.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years now and it still amazes me to see what some of my firefighters will do and how they will put themselves in harm’s way for your homes,” Curry said.
Responding to a question from PPCC Secretary Chris Spitz about people who are concerned with brush and branches—like the branch that hit the power line, sparking the Getty fire—Curry explained that “acts of God” still occur, even in areas that are generally well maintained.
“You can look 20 to 25 years in the future and look at moving all of these power lines underground and converting the whole system,” Curry said. “That’s the only way we’re going to solve this problem.”
Curry also responded to inquiries about multi-day evacuations, saying that he would speak to officials about why Palisades Recreation Center, at one point in the mandatory evacuation zone, was used as an evacuation center in the Getty fire.
The chief suggested that Palisadians look into purchasing N95 masks and googles, both of which will help in cases where embers and smoke are in the air.
“You can’t believe how debilitating it is to go outside and get an ember in your eye,” Curry shared. “You guys should have these things on stock.”
Curry wrapped his talk with a shout-out to Palisades fire stations, explaining that community members are “very blessed” in regard to their local agencies, including “unbelievable” air support.
Then Los Angeles Police Department Beach Patrol Officer John “Rusty” Redican, who was also on duty during both fires, explained things from his perspective—including an instance of stopping potential looting of evacuated homes.
While Redican was speaking with a community member near Antioch and Swarthmore, he saw a group of three people that he described as homeless individuals who use methamphetamine and are not interested in services. The trio usually frequents Santa Monica, Venice and Topanga.
“We have never seen them in the Palisades—never—except this one time,” Redican explained.
Redican noticed they were on bikes and had empty backpacks with them.
“Police officers, we are looking for that,” Redican said, adding that in situations like this, it is “all hands on deck,” and officers will patrol to make sure looters are not taking advantage of empty homes.
Redican touched on some of the road closures that occurred during the Getty fire, including a portion of southbound Pacific Coast Highway at the peak of evacuations.
“Although they’re trying to do the right thing because they’re looking at maps,” Redican shared of the agencies making calls about road closures, “a lot of them don’t have the benefit of having been here for the amount of time that we have.”
Redican added that he pushed to have PCH reopened, explaining that “a much bigger problem” was being created with the closure.
PPCC Wildfire Safety Advisor Miriam Schulman, who encouraged community members to visit the PPCC disaster readiness page to help fireproof their homes and be prepared in case of an emergency, and Community Emergency Response Team Coordinator K.C. Soll closed the discussion.
“We can’t stop the wild fires … they will come, they will happen,” Schulman explained. “But there are many, many things we can do to make our properties and our homes wildfire resistant.”