Last week, Southern California Edison gave customers, including Western Malibu, a 48-hour notice for a possible Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) in response to high Santa Ana winds and a Red Flag Warning issued by the National Weather Service.
Western Malibu was expected to be impacted on Thursday night (Oct. 10) into Friday morning; however, residents were anticipating a power outage that never occurred.
What did happen was a half-dozen brush fires sparking across Ventura and Los Angeles counties, including a .8-acre fire in the area of Las Virgenes and Mulholland Highway in Calabasas that was knocked down in just 11 minutes on Thursday afternoon.
Around 8 p.m. Thursday night, the Wendy Fire erupted in Newbury Park, burning near the intersection of Wendy Drive and Potrero Road. Flames made their way toward the ocean—and Malibu—but forward progress was stopped on the 90-acre fire before the sun rose and well before it ever reached Malibu.
Another fire that sparked around the same time, the Saddleridge Fire, began to burn overnight from Thursday into Friday, moving from Sylmar to Granada Hills and Porter Ranch.
That fire, which spread to engulf 8,391 acres, destroyed 17 structures and damaged 77 more, also resulting in one civilian death and three minor firefighter injuries.
Smoke from that fire, which blew into Malibu beginning early on Friday morning and into Saturday, created hazardous air conditions for residents. In response, the city announced it would be distributing free respiratory masks at City Hall and Malibu Bluffs Park, with CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) members reporting they were on hand to distribute masks across the city.
On Friday, Oct. 11, the school district sent out a press release on behalf of Malibu Pathway Director Isaac Burgess to recommend parents and faculty keep students indoors during the wildfires.
“While the South Coast Management Air Quality District is reporting air quality is good in Malibu, we know visually, by smell and falling ash, that this may not be accurate,” Burgess said in the press release. “We plan to keep students indoors today as these conditions continue and after school athletic practices and activities may be cancelled, in the abundance of caution.”
Shortly after that statement was released, it was announced all Malibu schools would have early dismissals on Friday. Malibu Boys & Girls Club also closed early on Friday.
By Saturday, the City of Malibu tweeted SCE no longer considering a power shutoff in Malibu.
During a PSPS, SCE turns off the power in high fire risk areas to reduce the chance of a fire.
“We know how disruptive a power outage can be for our customers and their communities and do not take these decisions lightly,” SCE Incident Commander Erik Takayesu said in a press release. “We are doing this out of utmost caution to protect the communities we serve.”
Late in the day on Monday, Oct. 14, information began to emerge about a possible link between SCE and the ignition of the Saddleridge Fire; various news agencies reported the fire started beneath a high-voltage transmission tower.
Malibu Urgent Care was not impacted by a shut-off; however, the center does have generators in case of a power outage and a spokesperson reported they were assisting individuals who are medically dependent on electricity.
The City of Malibu shared tips on social media about how to be prepared for a power outage. For instance, the city recommends keeping a tank full of gas and cash set aside, as well as having all electronics fully charged in an emergency, with backup batteries available.
According to the SCE website, officials and meteorologists said they implement these power outages to monitor conditions throughout service areas to identify circuits that may need to be turned off.