Officials Renew Fire Safety Warnings at Town Hall

LAFD flyover
Photos by Christian Monterrosa

By CHRISTIAN MONTERROSA | Reporter

Hundreds of residents from Pacific Palisades and Brentwood gathered at Paul Revere Charter Middle School on Saturday, November 9­—still shaken from the Getty and Palisades fires that scorched parts of their respective neighborhoods in recent weeks.

Organized by Councilmember Mike Bonin, fire officials like Ralph Terrazas, fire chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department, and Armando Hogan, deputy chief and commander of the West Bureau, held a safety town hall to address concerns surrounding recent wildfires.

Attendees were invited to get an up close look at the vehicles they hope never need to drive down their street. Several fire trucks from different agencies and a flyover from an LA City Fire helicopter aimed to reinforce residents’ confidence in the city and county’s ability to protect their lives and homes in case of emergency.

Inside the Paul Revere auditorium, officials repeated warnings heard in previous town halls. Urging residents to pack a go bag, evacuate when told and clearing enough brush around their homes for defensible space, officials became preachers to a choir of Westside community members.

“My number one objective is nobody dies,” Terrazas said. “Number two is to minimize the loss of houses.”

He explained how the city’s emergency response teams will be assessing the way things were handled over the last few weeks to identify any areas that need improvement and raised concern that in his decades of firefighting experience, fire seasons over the last few years have gotten increasingly worse.

Ralph Terrazas

“Something is happening,” he said, “and that something for us is that the weather is changing a little bit.”

Unlike Highlands residents who were restricted from leaving the area and told to shelter in place during the Palisades fire, Brentwood residents were evacuated for days from their homes on Mandeville Canyon and Kenter Avenue, drawing a strong rebuke from residents who were kept from repopulating the area for so long.

“There was a very serious analysis done to make that determination,” Bonin said when asked about the decision. “I’m always going to err on the side of having people being frustrated and alive than dead.”

Further criticism came at the decision to make the Palisades Recreation Center, which was in an evacuation warning zone, a designated evacuation center, leaving many confused or unwilling to leave their homes just to have to leave again.

Terrazas promised to investigate the misstep to prevent it in the future.

Several hours after the town hall ended, an 80-acre brush fire broke out in the Hollywood Hills, and the process started all over again.