Opinion: Laguna Beach City Corner

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A Note From The Fire Chief

By Mike Garcia

Dear Laguna Beach Community,

The City of Laguna Beach is extremely fortunate that the winds didn’t shift during last week’s Coastal Fire, and that there were no injuries or loss of life to any Laguna Niguel residents or their pets. The two injured firefighters (the injured were not Laguna Beach firefighters) are recovering and doing well. I would like to thank our City’s Emergency Management Operation Team and Laguna Beach firefighters who were among almost 600 firefighters that assisted in the Coastal Fire efforts and all our partnering agencies who answered the call and came to the aid of our neighboring community. Our thoughts are with those whose homes were destroyed or damaged.

The Coastal Fire moved quickly and was fueled by thick brush, strong wind, and steep topography, and such prompted a large response of firefighting resources from across the region including Laguna Beach. The use of the City’s new helicopter water refilling tank (which was one of the recommendations from the Wildfire Mitigation and Fire Safety Report) during the Coastal Fire served as a great “force multiplier” for the helicopters fighting the vegetation fire. It allowed more frequent water drops by allowing for a nearby water fill station and doesn’t require the helicopter to land and power down. Firefighting crews were able to provide more needed water drops by having this refilling station so close by. Its use in the recent Coastal Fire solidifies the helicopter water refilling tank as an excellent firefighting tool and part of our Wildfire Mitigation and Safety Plan.

The Coastal Fire, like the recent Emerald Fire, happened during a time we have relatively high moisture in our vegetation (fuels) and is a reminder that vegetation fires can now happen anytime throughout the year. Fire season is year-round, and preparedness is key to survival of both life and property. Residents should take steps now to create an emergency kit and practice an evacuation plan. As we saw with the Coastal Fire’s embers that traveled from one property to the next, it is also important to keep your property defensible by keeping flammable vegetation and features completely out of the immediate 5-foot area directly around your home. Fire safe planting, limiting more susceptible flammable vegetation and grasses, and maintaining vegetation/tree canopy out from the 5-foot mark of your property up to 100 feet makes a tremendous difference in ignitability.

Defensible homes with non-combustible roofs, sidings with boxed-in eves, double pane/tempered windows, and fire-resistant vent screens all help a home from quickly igniting. For more tips, I invite you to visit our website at lagunabeachcity.net/fire.

The Coastal Fire serves as another good reminder that it is critical for Laguna Beach residents to register to receive emergency alerts. I urge you to sign up for both County’s notification system at alertoc.com and to also sign up for Nixle, the City’s notification system by texting 92651 to 888-777. AlertOC is Orange County’s regional mass notification system designed to keep those who live or work in Orange County provided with important information during emergency events. Nixle is the City of Laguna Beach’s community alert system which is typically used for emergency notifications, community event information, or traffic issues which are sent by text messages, mobile app, and/or email. Please sign up for both.

With the current drought and the ongoing effects of climate change, it’s not a question of “if” a fire will happen again, but when. I ask you to please take the steps to prepare yourself now so that we are stronger together when emergency strikes.

Mike has been chief of the Laguna Beach Fire Department since 2018.

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