Firefighters Breakfast with Palisades Optimist Club, Answer Questions about Brush Fires and Evacuations

Firefighters from Station 69 answered questions at an Optimist breakfast meeting.

LAFD Station 69 B-Platoon Firefighters, under Captains Erick Schneider and Paul Egizi, stopped by the Palisades Optimist Club breakfast meeting on Tuesday in Janes Hall at the Presbyterian Church.

Questions asked by the Optimist centered around “How do we keep our homes safer?” and “How are we going to get out of town if there’s an evacuation?”

Schneider and Egizi both noted that because this is a tight-knit community, residents feel like they know the firefighters personally. But if there’s a problem, the first thing residents do is call the business line at the station.

“Call 911, not the business line,” Egizi said.

“If we’re out of the station, you’ll waste time trying to reach us,” Schneider said.

“Call 911!” They both emphasized.

In April, brush clearance information will be sent out again. “It’s one of the most important things you can do to get ready for a fire,” Egizi said. “Compliance is one of the best things you can do for your safety.”

The topic turned to the Palisades Fire and the Getty Fire. In both cases, evacuations took place in Pacific Palisades.

Eventually, the Palisades Fire (below Marquez Knolls) resulted in the closure of Palisades Drive, the only route in and out of the Highlands.

One of the Optimists who lives in the Highlands asked about the fire road that connects that community to upper Marquez, saying the gate on the road was locked, which meant they didn’t have any outside access. Should the road have been opened?

According to Schneider, “Personally, I want that gate closed because it is an unsafe escape route. Unless there are fire engines along that road, I would not want people to use it.”

He said there are good places to shelter in place in the Highlands and that would be safer than using that road.

During the mandatory evacuation after the Getty Fire broke out and headed towards Brentwood, there was mass confusion. Residents who stayed in town were directed to the Palisades Recreation Center as a safety site, even though it was located in the evacuation zone.

Additionally, PCH was closed between Temescal Canyon Road and Potrero Canyon, which forced motorists onto Sunset and through the town’s mandatory evacuation zone.

“Everything that happens in a major fire, we learn from it,” Egizi said. “That was a huge problem.”

They explained that the Getty Fire was wind driven, which is what caused Pacific Palisades to be put in a mandatory evacuation zone.

“If a fire is imminent, you will have a firefighter pounding on your door,” Egizi noted. “If LAPD is asking you to leave, you will have a little more time.”

“Please evacuate if you are asked,” Schneider said. “Some people are asked, and they don’t want to do it. Then the fire becomes more pressing and they decide to evacuate. Then it becomes a bottleneck with traffic. It plugs us up trying to get to the fire.”

Reverse 911 was in operation during the Getty Fire, as well as an app on Smart phones. “Heed the advice they are giving you,” the men said.

Both Captains emphasized that the narrow streets in this area make it almost impossible for fire trucks to fit through and asked for people to remember to park as close to the curb as possible, just in general. Or, ideally, in their driveways.

One Optimist asked about dead trees that are located across from his property in the Highlands. “They are on private property,” he said, and he wondered what to do.

“We cannot make a property owner cut down a tree,” the Captains said.

Schneider and Egizi said that LAFD is hiring right now and most likely will be for the next five years (visit: joinlafd.org). They said there is about a 20 percent “washout” rate of candidates.

There are three shifts at Station 69 (Carey at Sunset), with 12 firefighters/paramedics working 3-day, 24-hour shifts. The A, B and C Platoons each have two captains.

DOOR UPDATE: The front door to Station 69 was damaged December 12 by an impaired driver. After community outcry about the City’s delay in providing a new door, a new one was finally ordered sometime in January and will be installed within about six weeks. As reported earlier by CTN, the damaged door stopped operating but was “pounded and fixed” so that it at least closes. (Editor’s note: If a new door had been ordered by the City right after the accident, there’s a good chance a new one could already be in place.)

LANDSCAPING UPDATE: The Captains feel that the rosemary that was planted in the parkway on Sunset is not ideal and would like to put in paving stone and decomposed granite, so that the community could use the parkway during events such as the Palisades Fourth of July parade. If you have expertise or materials, please contact the Captains at the station.

Rosemary plants which were planted on three sides of the firestation in the parkway were removed along Sunset and Carey because of the difficulty of accessing the sidewalk.

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