As local activists, we know the dangers of fires in our high fire risk neighborhoods. We also know that fires may be natural or man-made disasters, depending on what originally caused the disaster. The most common causes of natural fires are lightning strikes, sparks during arid conditions, but the most common one in California are naturally caused by dry temperatures. While man-made fires arise from deliberate arson or accidents. In California, wildfire is part of the natural ecosystem, yet with climate change wildfires are becoming more deadly, more frequent, and more damaging.
Over the past few years, Canyon Back Alliance was successful in advocating for the expansion of a wildfire safety system in the Santa Monica Mountains. The state-of-the-art cameras help firefighters and first responders locate fire ignition, quickly scale fire resources, monitor fire behavior, help evacuations through enhanced situational awareness, and ensure contained fires are monitored appropriately through their demise.
The Skirball Fire 2017
The Skirball Fire was a wildfire that burned in the Bel Air neighborhood, and one of multiple wildfires that broke out across Southern California in December 2017. The fire burned 422 acres of land on the slopes of the Sepulveda Pass on its east or Bel Air side, causing the closure of Interstate 405. During the Skirball Fire, firefighters in the LAFD employed drones to help them combat wildfires for the first time.
On December 12, it was reported on that the fire had been sparked by an illegal cooking fire at a homeless encampment within the pass.
The Woosley Fire 2018
The Woolsey Fire was the most damaging wildfire in Southern California history. The final toll was 97,000 acres burned, 1600 structures destroyed, and losses in property exceeding $6 billion. Within the City of Malibu, 488 homes burned to the ground. The Woolsey Fire killed three people: Alfred deCiutiis, who was thought to have died in his home in Agoura Hills, and Malibuites Anthony Noubar Baklayan and Shoushan Baklayan, who were thought to have been fleeing the fire when their vehicle was overtaken.
Declared a federal disaster by President Trump, approximately 295,000 people were forced to flee their homes and stay away for at least five days until the evacuation order ended. The fire was not fully suppressed for another two weeks. Click here to learn more.
The Getty Fire 2019
The Getty Fire was a 2019 wildfire that burned 745 acres in Brentwood. The fire was first reported on October 28, 2019 which was believed to have started at 1:00am and it was caused by a tree falling down on a nearby power line. The fire was not contained until November 5, 2019. Thousands of people were forced to flee, 10 homes were destroyed and 15 residences were damaged.
The LA Times cast light on the communication gaps that arise amid the confusion of such an evacuation in columnist Frank Shyong’s piece, “Why Did No one warn the housekeepers about the Getty Fire?” He observed gardeners, housekeepers and other domestic workers reporting for work during the fire and questioned the efforts at communication from both the employers and city.
This also sparked for the California State Legislature to introduce SB 1257 which would afford domestic workers the same legal rights as other workers to health and safety training and protective equipment. They would also be protected against retaliation when advocating for their own health and safety at work. Many workers risked their lives during wildfires to defend properties and pets of clients and to clean up ashes without protective gear.