The weather forecast was for gusty Santa Ana winds to move into this area on Tuesday, November 15. The strongest gusts were predicted in the early a.m. on Wednesday.
Santa Ana winds are dry and there is low humidity, which creates severe fire weather conditions. Pacific Palisades is located in a very high fire hazard severity zone, surrounded by parkland and brush..
Given that wind forecast, several bocce players decided Tuesday was the perfect day to grill with an open flame. Even though there are six grills in the bocce area, those players selected the grill closest to a large eucalyptus tree and several residences.
When Station 69 Firefighters responded to smoke in the park on Tuesday afternoon around 1 p.m., the bocce grillers were asked to put out the fire. The ashes were dumped next to the grill. There are no receptacles for ashes. There are no fire extinguishers near the grills.
One woman wrote CTN that she was playing bocce, but not grilling, but “there was NO wind, and you could barely tell the grill was on . . .I am astonished by this overkill.”
Firefighters, who came to the park, do this for a living. They knew Pacific Palisades was under a fire watch, and that red-flag warnings were possible.
Additionally, weather is a not an exact science, the winds were predicted to move in late Tuesday afternoon, but if they had moved in sooner and an ember had blown to a nearby eucalyptus, there would have been real problems for the Huntington Palisades.
There are several stately eucalyptus trees surrounding the bocce area and the tennis courts in the Palisades Recreation Center. The trees are considered extremely flammable.
According to one expert: “These hardy plants have delightfully scented, volatile oil in all parts of the plant. The tree sheds bark and dead leaves, which make a perfect pile of tinder under the tree too. When the oils in the tree heat up, the plant releases flammable gas, which ignites into a fireball. This accelerates the eucalyptus fire hazards in a region and discourages firefighting efforts.”
The Los Angeles Daily News warned in November 16 story (“Gusty Winds up to 70 mph in Forecast this Week”) that “residents are cautioned to have an evacuation plan in case of wildfire and watch for downed trees and power lines.”
Another round of Santa Ana winds is expected on Friday and Saturday. Rec and Parks users need to heed LAFD’s advice to keep its residents safe. That would include no grilling with open flames near homes or large eucalyptus trees.