PPCC Talks Fire Safety with Officials

By CHRISTIAN MONTERROSA | Reporter

Efforts to increase fire preparedness in Pacific Palisades continued on Thursday, January 24, with a presentation by fire officials at the Pacific Palisades Community Council meeting.

Deputy Fire Chief Armando Hogan, Captain Tom Kitahata from LAFD Station 69 and West Bureau Assistant Chief Orin Saunders put another drop in the bucket of community preparedness as they walked Palisadians through fire operations and strategies in the event of a large wildfire.

After a firsthand account of the Woolsey fire and what it was like to work in the fire that charred over 96,000 acres by Capt. Kitahata, Deputy Chief Hogan placed emphasis on the community to familiarize itself with what exactly happens during a fire to increase “situational awareness.”

“A lot of the time, the challenges are that you don’t know what we’re doing and you feel like you’re not getting information,” Hogan said.

He described the job description of an “incident commander” to allocate the appropriate resources in place based on where they will be most effective, what firefighters do when they first arrive on the scene and how evacuation orders are exercised.

Assistant Chief Saunders stressed the importance of obeying evacuation orders, regardless of how far the fire might appear to be.

“There will be a time when residents say, ‘I’m not going to leave my house, I’m going to stay in place,’” Saunders said. “When you do that, not only do you put your life in jeopardy, you put the lives of firefighters in jeopardy.”

He also stressed the importance of bringing all pets in the event of a wildfire. Should residents be away from home and cannot access their home to evacuate their pet, they should alert an officer at any checkpoint to send out teams to retrieve them.

When asked how much was required to avoid a Woolsey firelike disaster in Pacific Palisades, Chief Hogan reminded everyone that more money was not the solution, but rather what is “going to work best.”

With wind-driven fires being erratic and unpredictable in behavior, Hogan explained, fire officials are in the process of learning from previous incidents and what plan of action to take.

The fire chief ended with a proposal to work with the PPCC to create an emergency evacuation plan with the community that would further prepare residents in the event of a fire.

“That way, when our firefighters and police officers show up and they tell you where to go, you’ll already [know what to do],” he said.