Bears and Alligators Environment Fire

Fire Weather – Day 3 – UPDATED X4



We have been very lucky. Topanga is open again so that those who work up here, but live out of the canyon, can once again get through. The Malibu fire is not out, but barring a freak occurrence, it is contained. Smoldering but not flaming.

Word is that the true this-could-go-bad moment was noon yesterday, when the fire was running along the coast and threaten to breach Los Flores Canyon…but then the winds changed.
We are hoping for a quiet night with the understanding that many of our friends and fellow Californians—and firefighters from all over—still have harsh and scary hours ahead.

Also, as of this evening, Rebel Girl says she thinks there’s a good chance that her house in Modjeska is still standing. May this very good news be true—and stay that way.

PS: Earlier this evening, two of my smart, big-hearted neighbors
Dianne Porchia and Clare Brown, took it into their heads to drive down to the Command Post for the Malibu Canyon Fire where they delivered to the firefighters two huge pans of their home made pasta with chicken sausage and two huge lemon and chocolate cakes. Good work, girlfriends!


UPDATE: 2:30 PM: Commenter Rebel Girl writes to say that they’ve pulled the firefighters and the air support from her home area of Modjeska Canyon, which is one of the places most affected by the Santiago Fire. She says that if the fire does it’s worst, 300 homes in Modjeska will burn. She and her huz and their five year old are with friends. We are thinking protective thoughts for all those in that little canyon. She’s blogging about her experience here.

Here’s an account from one of her neighbors,
who also happens to be an an LA Times reporter.

Also, Kevin Roderick at LA Observed reports that KPBS—the public TV and radio station in San Diego—has been knocked off the air when their transmitter site was engulfed by flames. They are now broadcasting from FM 94.9.



In the wee hours of the morning, I felt the winds change. Suddenly the smell of smoke was different. Stronger. Then at 1 am we heard that they’d closed Topanga Canyon Blvd., even to residents. Several Topanga people have been prevented from going home. Not good.

A very snippy Sheriff’s Deputy at Lost Hills station,
whom I call at 1:30 am to try to verify the closure, is not, how to put it? …helpful.

“We didn’t make the decision,” she says.

Okay, whom would she suggest I contact for more information about conditions that may have triggered this worrisome closure? (I’ve already tried the on-sight fire guys and they are wisely trying to ignore their phones for a few hours.)

“The Emergency Operations Command
, but they won’t talk to you. They don’t talk to the public.”

That’s fine, I tell her, doing my best to fight the snotty tone
that now wants very much to creep into my own voice. “I’m the press.”

“I used to have a number for the press to call,” snaps the deputy. “But I threw it away.”

O-kay. (I should note that the Lost Hills deputies are usually uniformly nice. So she was an an exception. I’d give her lack of sleep but all the fire guys I’ve talked to in the last 24 hours, have been up for two days straight and they have been heroic in their courtesy.)

In any case, the entry ban for residents disappeared around 7 am this morning according to the T-CEP emergency website where we Topanga folks get our info in situations like this one:

The restriction on Residents entering Topanga via all access roads has been lifted. Topanga Cyn. blvd is closed to all but Residents With Proper ID. The reason for this restriction was the Fire & Sherriffs concern that the Mandatory Evacuation areas may have been entered since patrol cars had not been adequately posted at the entry points.

Slightly strange logic. But whatever. The winds are supposed to lessen tomorrow, so if we can make it until then, we will have dodged the bullet again this year.

Others are not as lucky. My friend, Father Greg Boyle,
just sent me a Blackberry message that his brother and family have been evacuated in San Diego.

And I just heard from regular WLA commenter Rebel Girl, who lives in the Irvine area and evacuated last night at 10 pm. She is being threatened by what they are referring to as the Santiago Fire. You can find her here in the comments section. I’m hoping she’ll keep us updated about that fire as she can….and that she will have good news and the fire will keep away from her house.

I know firefighters in that area are suffering because they don’t have the air support they need. Resources are far too stretched.

In fact, for me what is the most amazing—and scary—photo to come out of these fires so far is this one, taken in Santiago Canyon, by Karen Tapia-Anderson for the LA Times. It shows 12 firefighters who got trapped on a ridge as the fire roared toward them. Having no other choice, they deployed their portable shelters, and Ms. Tapia-Anderson got the photo. All 12 survived without serious injury.

Another reminder why one should smile gratefully at every firefighter one passes on the street. Ever.

While you’re thinking good thoughts about Rebel Girl’s house (and the thousands upon thousands who’re threatened in San Diego County), feel free to think bad thoughts about this fool whom Marc Cooper writes about. (Yes I know I linked to this in yesterday’s fire post, but it bears repeating.)

NEW NOTE: Conservative blogger “Jon Swift,” also takes the odious Glenn Beck smartly to task for his vile fire remarks.

A half million to a million people have been displaced, and counting. This is the largest evacuation in California history. The LA Times is keeping a good running tally of burned homes and structures.


(sky crane photo from Malibu Surfside News)


  • Yes, getting accurate information during times like this can be rather frustrating.

    Early last evening, my husband drove up to the mouth of our canyon and asked the sheriff there whether or not an evac order was forthcoming. The sheriff suggested that one had already been issued despite much evidence to the contrary standing all around him.

    A neighbor talked to someone in dispatch (I think that was he description) much earlier in the evening and when the person reported that our canyon was already burning – the neighbor identified herself as a resident and a reporter for a local paper and asked for confirmation of the information whereupon the dispatcher hemmed and hawed his way out of his earlier statement.

    We finally evacuated our home last night around 10 when a fellow came by a couple streets away with a very weak bullhorn announcement. The five year old slept through the whole drive up and over the grade which was a good thing considering how scared his mother was – something about coming up and seeing the fire fully. Damn.

    Three hours later, the fire jumped the road.

    We’re with friends in Lake Forest. Suburban tract homes. Plasma television for the kid who has none at home. Mewling cats in the garage. Husband drove back to try and take a peek this morning.

    I feel like I have come unstuck in time like some Kurt Vonnegut character. Dsiplacement.

  • RG: You’re in my thoughts. I’m going to imagine your house NOT burning.

    Keep us updated. I’ll point to your comments in the main post. Any information is welcome.

  • You’re in my thoughts too – and everybody else.

    Turn for the worse reported right now as winds pick up. They finally have aerial drops going but, well…it may be too late. My guy is still up on the road with his cell phone.

    Yeah, great photo by Karen Tapia-Anderson. Great firefighters we have here. We do. We do.

  • Glad you’re both well, and much of Malibu was saved. But I’m watching coverage of the fires in the OC in the background, and thei fire chief is mad as hell that they didn’t have the air support — that they didn’t get it for over 2 days, and lost a lot of homes as a result. Talking re: how Sacramento has not allocated resources to them in proportion to need. Chief said they could be dealing with the fire for another 5-14 days due to lack of heavy artillery early on. By then they’ll have rain, which will be a mixed blessing with the denuded hillsides.

    Celeste, don’t know if the woman you talked to trying to get info was just tired, or tired of “press” and their special demands, or maybe both. She probably got fed up with push press people claiming special privileges to time and access, and while it’s good to get some tv coverage, I’m sure a lot of them just hinder the firefighters from doing their jobs. Sorry, but some lady wanting to know how to get home at 1:30 a.m. claiming to be press d/not have more priorities than the nurse working a late shift with small kids at home.

    Marc Cooper’s observation re: the anti-left commentator does shed light on an unsavory individual, but as I pointed out yesterday from reading the L A Times reader opinion blog, all of their gloating comments were from those seeing Malibu as a domain of unworthy rich whites. Prejudice comes from both sides, but the entrenched lefties like Cooper would never admit it. Their comments on “social justice” would carry more weight if they were balanced once in a while.

    Even on the westside the sky is filled with smoke — ominous.

  • Hey, Maggie, give me a break. I called trying to get information for my fellow Topanga residents who were extremely worried about whether they could get home if they left. My neighbor on one side has an ill mother who is recovering from brain surgery. My other neighbor was trying to help evacuate a friends horses that had been missed and should have been gotten out. Neighbor three, down the street, was out of town for work when the fire started. Neighbor four sent his wife and kids out Sunday night, because his youngest daughter was so spooked, while he stayed, and it was unclear if he could go to see them. And so on.

    I only pulled the press card (and did so very politely) when she was already well down the road into being a jerk.

  • Maggie writes ….
    But I’m watching coverage of the fires in the OC in the background, and their fire chief is mad as hell that they didn’t have the air support — that they didn’t get it for over 2 days, and lost a lot of homes as a result.

    The fire chief from Orange County who was “mad as hell” should not be so mad. There have only been a few homes lost in Orange County so far. The firefighters in San Diego and Lake Arrowhead are the ones really overwhelmed right now. The state of California signed agreements with other states to share fire-fighting resources in emergencies just like this one. I expect to see air support coming from other states pretty soon.

  • L A Res., Santa Clarita firefighters were also complaining about “lack of resources,” but that seemed to include low water pressure for their hoses; they did have a super scooper. Don’t know how these things are allocated all around, but pt. of OC guy was, they could have nipped their fire in the bud had they had those super scoopers two days ago — it’s timing. So it’ll take 1-2 wks. vs. couple days.

    Wonder if that 52 billion we’re sending to Washington and not getting back could have helped w/ more heavy artillery.

    Celeste, you might just have been the 101st “press” that woman had to deal with — or she’d not have thrown out the number, I’m assuming — nothing personal. But they’re often vultures, interested in building their own reps and they can get in the way and harass officials and private citizens claiming “special” 1st amendment rights. Even if they have three readers on a blog these days. There are a few that I trust and would turn to w/ a story tho.

  • Seems like our little canyon (Modjeska) is done for – they’ve pulled the firefighters and the air support – it’s too dangerous. That’s 300 homes in our canyon alone.

  • Check out Janet Wilson’s piece – it’s on the front page of the LA Times website – she’s a friend and Modjeska neighbor: “Reporter Returns from her Honeymoon to a Nightmare.”

    Thanks for the well wishes.

  • Celeste, may I use your press credentials to sit in press boxes for football games?

    I hope that people are safe and that no more homes or businesses are lost, but this better not happen again. Don’t rebuild without sufficient protection against similar future disasters.

  • Maggie, what are you talking about? Celeste told a story about an incompetent (or at least rude) beaurocrat and you’ve just decided that she’s wrong or that there are extenuating circumstances. I thought one of the main tenets of conservatism is that government work breeds incompetent beaurocracy. And besides, can’t you just take our host’s word that somebody treated her poorly without making up some justification based on your personal dislike for journalists? Jeez.

    To those in the thick of things, especially Rebel Girl, I wish all the best. It’s weird being down in the city where, other than some unusually beautiful sunsets, things feel very normal. Take care.

Leave a Comment