Los Angeles County Firefighters Respond Quickly to Decker School Road Fire
• Observers Say Rapid Deployment of Aircraft May Have Averted Major Emergency Situation
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
Millions of Californians are preparing to test their disaster preparedness on Thursday for the annual Great California Shakeout, but Decker Canyon residents had their own disaster drill on Monday, when a wildfire broke out.
Los Angeles County fire fighters responded swiftly to the fire that ignited near Decker School Road on Monday at approximately 11:35 a.m.
"Several fire trucks arrived and they promptly got a handle on the flames," longtime Malibu ranch owner Judy Mora told the Malibu Surfside News.
"At about noon aircraft in abundance filled the sky, making quick work of a potentially bad situation. Each plane dropped once, circled then flew away south west. One of two yellow helicopters did what seemed a recognizant pass over the hot spot. Then the second 'copter spread a black retardant, to the cheers of the neighborhood horse girls!" Mora said.
Many residents reportedly gathered to watch the aerial assault on the flames and cheer the firefighters.
City of Malibu Emergency Services Coordinator Brad Davis confirmed that Super Scoopers and helicopters were deployed to the fire scene, and swiftly knocked down the flames.
The fire, which was burning on a densely vegetated ridge, was contained at approximate a quarter of an acre. Although it was hot and humidity was low, there was no wind to fuel the blaze. However, fire crews remained on the scene throughout the day as a precaution. The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.
Malibu and much of Southern California will continue to experience heightened fire danger through Thursday, with hot temperatures peaking on Wednesday. Forecasts call for the marine layer to return on Thursday night, but LAFD is warning that peak fire season will persist in Malibu until the winter rains arrive.
Records show that several of Malibu's most catastrophic fires have occurred in October.
On Oct. 26, 1929, a fire that swept down Malibu Canyon destroyed many homes in the newly established Malibu Colony.
The Oct. 23, 1935, Malibu Fire burned 28,202 acres, while an Oct. 20, 1943, wildfire burned "all the way to the edge of Roosevelt Highway" (PCH), according to newspaper reports.
On Oct. 23, 1978, a 17-year-old arsonist ignited a fire that burned 25,000 acres from Cornell Road in Agoura Hills to the ocean at Broad Beach in Malibu News reports state that the fire was reported in Agoura Hills at 12:11 p.m., and that by 2:30 p.m., the leading edge of the fire had traversed almost 15 miles across Santa Monica Mountains and crossed PCH near Encinal Canyon. The Agoura-Malibu Fire destroyed a total of 162 Malibu homes and a total of 230 buildings.
The Oct. 14, 1982, Dayton Fire once again followed the Malibu Canyon corridor fire path, burning 44,000 acres.This fire crossed the highway at Paradise Cove and burned a number of mobile homes. Point Dume residents heard the explosions from Paradise Cove propane tanks while they watched the fire move west. The fire crossed PCH again near Selfridge Road at Point Dume, but was extinguished before it could spread.
The Oct. 14, 1985, Decker and Piuma fires-both ignited by arsonists-burned more than 10,000 acres, and destroyed six homes, while the Nov. 2, 1993, Malibu-Old Topanga Fire-a conflagration of two blazes, scorched 16,500 acres, killing three and destroying 739 buildings.
More recently, the 2007 October Canyon Fire burned 1200 acres. It destroyed five houses, damaged Webster Elementary and Our Lady of Malibu schools, and burned Malibu Presbyterian Church to the ground.
Rapid response and a lack of wind prevented the Oct. 15 Decker Canyon incident from becoming a major disaster, but emergency responders say the episode is a good reminder that fires can start at any time when humidity is low and brush is dry. All Malibu residents should be vigilant, report any suspicious activity in high fire risk areas and make sure they have an up-to-date fire emergency evacuation plan for all family members, including pets and livestock.