October 2019 Getty Brush Fire: Palisades Residents Tried to Evacuate

Although the Getty Fire started near the 405 Freeway, firefighters were worried that with wind, it would travel to the ocean, via Pacific Palisades.

(Editor’s note: During the Getty Brush Fire, much of Pacific Palisades was under mandatory evacuation. The fire was first reported on October 28 and was contained on November 5. Thousands of people were forced to flee, 10 homes were destroyed and 15 residences were damaged. Below is a report of that evacuation in Pacific Palisades, which was a comedy of errors: if a fire had made it to this town, would have killed hundreds as they tried to flee. Instead, residents were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. An effective evacuation for the Palisades has never been planned.)

Destruction: 12 homes burned, five damaged    Size: 656 acres  Containment: 15 percent.

People say, “But I don’t see any flames.”  Think of the ground as a campfire or a fireplace. Until the embers under the burn wood/brush are entirely out, the wind could blow them to an unburned area and a new fire started.

“All it takes is one ember, one ember to head downwind and start a fire,” Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said at a 2:15 p.m. news conference today.

Science magazine in a 2017 story “In California Fires, a Starring Role for the Wicked Wind of the West,” explains “California’s biggest and deadliest fires have been propelled by Santa Ana winds, which can gust to 100 mph. That wind speed makes smothering fires nearly impossible, said Chief Daniel Berlant, assistant deputy director the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire).

“’In many cases, it’s all we can do just to try to control the path of the fire, trying to keep it away from people and homes,’ Berlant said. ‘Stopping a fire when wind is 50, 60, 70 miles per hour is almost not possible.

“’These fires burn into anything that’s in their path,’ he said. ‘A wind-driven fire is like a freight train and stopping a freight train on a dime doesn’t happen.

“Helicopters can’t drop water or flame retardants in high winds, he said, because the gusts blow the liquids away.”

High winds are expected to start tonight around 11 a.m. with the National Weather Service saying some winds in canyons and hills may gust to 70 mph. and the winds may last about 12 hours. By Halloween, the winds are supposed to be mild.

Mandatory evacuations remain in place for a good share of Pacific Palisades north of Sunset Boulevard to Temescal Canyon Road. Residents east of Temescal and below Sunset are in voluntary evacuation area.

Do not wait until the last minute to evacuate. Pacific Palisades only has three ways in and out: Sunset Boulevard, Temescal Canyon Road and Chautauqua Boulevard.

People on Nextdoor complained about the traffic situation when mandatory fire evacuations happened on Monday.

One resident wrote: “Yesterday we tried to evacuate but Temescal was closed: Sunset was closed, and only Chautauqua was open which was like a parking lot. We moved 10 yards in one hour”.

Another wrote: “Can you please explain why southbound PCH was closed diverting all traffic into a mandatory evacuation area making it impossible for residents to evacuate?”

In a Daily News October 29 Opinion piece “Congestion Kills, so Why Do Politicians Make It Worse,” the authors write “When the Camp Fire obliterated the town [Paradise] in 2018, many people were unable to evacuate due to congestion. Eighty-six people died, some of them in their cars as they tried to flee.”

Pacific Palisades has an evacuation route problem, just as Paradise did.

Residents don’t have a lot of different roads to choose from, particularly those evacuating from the Highlands, Paseo Miramar, Upper Marquez Knolls, Castellammare or Sunset Mesa. Most of those roads have one way in, one way out.





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One Response to October 2019 Getty Brush Fire: Palisades Residents Tried to Evacuate

  1. Elizabeth Alford says:

    Not only do we need a plan, we need to practice it

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