LA Fire Trucks Sent To Nor Cal Fire Left Malibu Undefended, Chief Says
Written by 991KBU on December 5, 2018
Why was Malibu left to burn? The first explanation from the fire department did not put out the local firestorm of criticism
. The assistant fire chief for western L A County last night gave the first official explanation of what went wrong on November 9th.
Last night … Chief Williams said Malibu was done in … by a combination of factors..
First … hundreds of firetrucks and thousands of firefighters from Southern California were being raced 350 miles north up Interstate 5 to the Camp Fire in Paradise.
That’s where the potential for large numbers of deaths was very high.
In fact … about a hundred people were killed up there.
He says the federal government was unable to put out the fire … on US Forest Service land up there.
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“Resources that normally would have assisted with the camp fire from the U.S. Forest Service are off-duty.
“They are off-season.
“Their season ended November 1st.
“So that’s upwards of 100 to 150 fire engines that are not available from the federal government … that were replaced by Cal Fire engines that normally would be assisting us.
“In addition … strike teams that were requested from Southern California were en route to Northern California.
“Engines and strike teams that were already headed north were not turned around to come back to the Hill Fire.”
– ASST LA COUNTY FIRE CHIEF ANTHONY WILLIAMS
The Hill Fire was already burning west of Thousand Oaks and near Point Mugu … when the Woolsey fire broke out in the hills between Simi Valley and the Los Angeles San Fernando Valley.
L A County is set up to handle fires that come down one or two canyons towards Malibu at the same time.
That’s the historical fire behavior.
This sheet of flames was 14 miles wide.
In a whole bunch of canyons simultaneously.
The fire department was completely overwhelmed.
Again … Chief Williams.
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“The perception that fire engines were not out there working is incorrect.
“They were doing their fire front following, coming from Simi, coming to the areas that were impacted.
“Yes … there were areas that did not have fire engines.
“We had 57,000 houses in the path of that fire.
“The expectation that a fire engine would be at each and every resident or every street is unrealistic.
“We don’t have 57,000 fire engines in the western United States.”
– ASST LA COUNTY FIRE CHIEF ANTHONY WILLIAMS
That may begin to explain why the fire department all but abandoned Malibu when the fire first arrived.
But it did not answer questions about why it took two days to get strike teams from Riverside or San Diego counties into Malibu … onto the streets here.
The explanation for the giant traffic jam … on PCH ..
The California Highway Patrol was in charge of that … and their explanation for that was even less satisfactory.
Lieutenant Kevin Kirker was in charge that morning.
He described a series of what can best be described as bureaucratic agency miscommunications.
NEWSCART 77951 KIRKER QQQ AND SAME LEVEL OF CONFUSION
“It’s a communication thing
“And you’re also going from different locations.
“We were operating out of lost Hills sheriffs department, and the main command Post and unified command was operating … unfortunately … it was split because of the Hill Fire.
“It was out of Camarillo and also out of Canejo (Newberry) Park.
“So you’re trying to get all these players to coordinate and collaborate on the same level . and the same level of communication…”
– CHP LT. KEVIN KIRKER
In other words … the agencies led by the California Highway Patrol totally botched the evacuation.
They did not have a handle on what the situation was … early in the morning when traffic lights malfunctioned and traffic began to back up out of Malibu.
This was at intersections under the control of the California Highway Patrol.
Later in the day … the CHP managed to coordinate with city of Los Angeles and Santa Monica and the sheriffs department to convert PCH into a four lane eastbound evacuation route.
But why that had happened 12 hours into a fire event that was anticipated the night before … was not explained.
Chief Anthony Williams was the firefighter that KBUU News encountered in the parking lot at Trancas that terrible morning … as the fire consumed Malibu Park and was heading towards Malibu West and points west if there.
We asked him if Malibu West could be saved.
He looked at the mountain and the houses on fire … looked at the reporter … and he asked me:
“What does it look like to you???
“I asked for 70 strike teams … and I have none.”