Fire Crews Keep Searching for Smoldering Brush A Day After the Near-Disastrous Palisades Fire

Fire crews continued to work along Palisades Drive on October 22.

A day after the Palisades Fire caused mandatory evacuations for about 628 homes, firefighters remained along Palisades Drive and at the top of the hill above that road, below Charmel Lane and Vista Grande.

Captain Andrew Shaffer with LAFD’s Highland Station told Circling the News Tuesday morning, “When I came into the station today, I was told I was getting deployed for two days [Pacific Palisades]. The biggest problem with this fire is the terrain, [but] by 2 p.m. we hope to have all the hot spot.”

Firefighters struggled with the tough terrain. Falling rocks and boulders were a problem.

Smoldering brush was still apparent when I visited Palisades Drive in the lower Highlands around 10:30 a.m. Firefighters were working to eradicate embers, because later this week a stronger Santa Ana is predicted.

“We want to get to the stuff that is 10 to 12 inches tall,” said Shaffer, who noted that firefighters had been on the hillside trying to get to smoldering spots, but it had become unsafe because “a bunch of boulders were falling on us and we got out.”

He added this could prove problematic later this fall and winter with rain causing mudslides and additional boulders to fall.

A bit further up Palisades Drive, Engineer Luis Ochoa said his crew had just been released from the Saddleridge Fire. There, firefighters were also struggling with nearly vertical terrain, while using hoses.

The big push here was to get 100 percent containment before an anticipated Santa Ana wind event that is expected to begin Wednesday night and last through Friday.

There were hose lines up the hillside, and Ochoa noted that the LAFD has leased two trucks (Type 3 Stripe team) from the State that can go off road, but also have the capacity to pump water. The hose from that truck goes up the hill and every 100 feet, a tap line is introduced that allows for additional hoses.

An LAFD water truck filled the state trucks after being filled from the Highlands reservoir. Helicopters continued to make water drops on areas where smoke plumes appeared, before returning to the reservoir.

“We have a lot of companies at the top of the hill working down and a lot down here working up,” Ochoa said.

Helicopters continued to hit hot spots inaccessible to crews along Palisades Drive.

With fire trucks, vehicles and firefighters on either side of Palisades Drive about halfway up the canyon, about a quarter of a mile north of the Sea Ridge condominiums, traffic was limited to one lane and one direction at a time.

Cars following a “pilot car” were taken up hill, and then alternately, cars going downhill followed the same pilot car back. At Sunset Boulevard and Palisades Drive, cars traveling downhill were only allowed right turns. Midmorning, about 40 cars were lined up on Sunset waiting to go up the hill after more than 60 came down. The process repeated itself.

According to an 11 a.m. update by LAFD spokesperson Brian Humphrey, the fire was confirmed at 40 acres with 10 percent containment.

“We are pleased to note that first responders worked tirelessly to get evacuated residents promptly back into their homes within the same day,” Humphrey said. “Tactical patrols will be on the lookout for smoldering hot spots, so as to respond to any increase in fire activity.”

He explained that the grant-funded Fire Integrated Real-time Intelligence System (FIRIS) was used to provide perimeter mapping and heat source detection throughout Monday night using fixed-wing aircraft, and super computer-based fire prediction modeling.

“We respectfully request residents drive cautiously, as emergency workers and large fire equipment moves through our communities over the next few days,” Humphrey said. “Please be aware of falling debris and rolling rocks from nearby hillsides.”

Councilman Mike Bonin sent out an October 22 email stating, “The fire danger is actually higher today than it was yesterday, and it will get even worse later this week.”

He reminded people to sign up for NotifyLA to receive emergency alerts or to subscribe to alerts directly from LAFD (visit: lafd.org/alerts.) and he asked people to:

1) Leave early if LAFD issues a voluntary evacuation. Shelter in place if LAFD recommends sheltering in place.

2) Leave immediately when a mandatory evacuation is ordered by LAFD or other authorities.

3) Please do not use fire roads unless directed to do so specifically by LAFD or proper authorities. During Monday’s fire, some people used a fire road and drove into an evacuation area, putting themselves and first responders at risk.

“On Monday, LAFD was assisted by LAPD, CAL FIRE, Los Angeles County Fire Department, fire departments from neighboring cities, various city agencies, the MRCA, the Red Cross and volunteers from the CERT program,” Bonin said. “Keeping our families and our neighborhoods safe is a team effort and following the recommendations above will make sure we all do our part.”

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6 Responses to Fire Crews Keep Searching for Smoldering Brush A Day After the Near-Disastrous Palisades Fire

  1. Gordon Gerson says:

    I don’t understand the “10% containment.” Practically all the fire appears to be out with just a few smoldering hot spots, and it appears to be confined within the red retardant drops. How is containment defined?

  2. john D vigna says:

    How about an article with suggestions on erosion control and fire resistant landscaping before the rains come.

  3. Dottie Henkle says:

    Thanks, Sue, for the thorough reporting…….

  4. Coral says:

    For starters: I live next door to a 35 year old shake roof… the homeowner says it isn’t worth it to put on a new roof as he won’t gain any more value if selling his house…
    2nd… next to that roof on the opposite side of my house is a homeowner who moved to the are a few years ago and planted LARGE palm trees which now overhang the shake roof. He refuses to trim or remove them. Palm trees explode sending fire for hundreds of yards if an ember lands on them!
    I wish the fire department or City would publish a list of banned trees in residential areas. I’ve live through several fires in the 4 decades I have lived here… People still don’t understand how far cinders and sparks travel in the wind.

  5. Bob says:

    Excellent follow up reporting.

    The fact that crews are up on that vertical terrain in the heat is remarkable and commendable. Our City, County and State fire departments are very impressive.

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