Wildfire Safety Advisor Shares Tips at PPCC Meeting

By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief

Pacific Palisades Community Council Wildfire Safety Advisor Mariam Schulman shared some good news and bad news with the board at its most recent meeting Thursday, May 23.

“When there is a wildfire, one of the things that we know for a fact now is there are not enough resources,” Schulman warned. “There aren’t enough fire engines, there aren’t enough helicopters, there aren’t enough planes. And even if there were, there are areas that they cannot get to.”

The good news is Schulman provided steps that Palisadians in all neighborhoods can start taking to protect their home, their life and their property.

“There are things that we have to know as community members to keep our homes safe when the firefighters aren’t there or can’t get there,” Schulman said.

Schulman explained that newer homes, built with updated codes, are safer.

“In a neighborhood, there might be a house that is more vulnerable than the houses around it,” Schulman said. “When a house goes up in a neighborhood, it endangers at least the 10 houses closest to it.”

Schulman has worked closely with firefighters at Los Angeles Fire Department Station 69, including Captain Tommy Kitahata, who asked Schulman to encourage Palisadians to report to their local station if their street is too narrow for a fire truck to make it through with cars parked on both sides of the road so that placing no parking signs could be considered.

“Try to make a decision, what’s more valuable: your parking space or your house or your life, because if the fire engine cannot get up the street, you’re not going to get saved,” Schulman said.

In addition to making sure fire trucks can access all areas of the Palisades, Schulman addressed making homes safer, especially in the event of a shelter in place order.

At the May 19 Mandeville Canyon LAFD evacuation drill, simulating a fast-moving brush fire, Deputy Chief and Commander of the West Bureau Armando Hogan told attendees that it was highly possible that when a fire hits their neighborhood, they would be told to shelter in place. 

“That is a terrifying thought,” Schulman shared. “Sheltering in a place when a wildfire is coming means that your house better be safe.”

In a document distributed to those who attended the PPCC meeting, Schulman explained the importance of maintaining fire-resistant landscaping, not having ignition-vulnerable items on decks and patios, and keeping wind-blown embers out of the building.

“One of the things that was the most shocking to me about this research was that many, many, many homes get burned from the inside,” she said. “The firemen drive down your street, they look at your house and it’s not on fire, but it is, it’s on fire inside but they can’t see it and they will drive by.”

This happens when a house has wired vents that are big enough to let burning embers through. Schulman recommended that homeowners look into getting fire prevention vents installed, with mesh that she described as “exceedingly fine.” 

“I want us to feel empowered … we can do things in our neighborhood that can keep our houses from burning down,” Schulman shared at the end of her presentation. “I think that we all need to know what they are and we need to get the equipment. Get your house fire safe … and be ready.”