Malibu has made it through a year with no major fires, according to a recent review of public safety activity in the city, but low fuel moisture could put residents at risk as Santa Ana wind season approaches. 

Last Wednesday, Oct. 6, the Malibu Public Safety Commission reviewed public safety activity for the past year, with info provided by LA County Fire, lifeguards, volunteers on patrol and the sheriff’s department beach team.  

From July 2020 through June 2021, Malibu’s four fire stations responded to a total of 3,800 calls, for an average of 317 responses per month. About 62 percent of those were medical calls; 119 were fires; 824 were so-called “good intent” calls; and 423 were various service calls, including public and lifeguard assists, snake removals, flooding, investigations, and more.

Noteworthy incidents included a December 2020 brush fire that spread from a single-wide trailer to about a half-acre of brush on West Puerco Canyon Road. The total damage was estimated at $55,000. On Jan. 17, two separate fires caused a total of $2.4 million in damage, including the loss of a three-story residence and one fatality. And a memorable incident on May 8 was a deck collapse on Las Flores Beach, resulting in nine patients seen and four transports, but no fatalities—“that one could have been a lot worse than it was,” LA County Fire Department (LACoFD) Battalion Chief Rick Lewis said at the meeting.

Lewis also mentioned two key resources for this year’s fire season: access to both CL-415 “Super Scooper” airplanes and CH-47 “Chinook” helitankers.

Earlier in the meeting, Chris Brossard, Malibu’s fire safety liaison, said local fire activity was “moderate,” although there have been a couple small fires lately. Fuel moisture was down below 60 percent—very, very dry conditions—as peak fire season approached.

LA County Lifeguard Division Chief Fernando Boiteux spoke about lifeguard activity, sharing that about 3.5 million visitors came to Malibu beaches this summer. Lifeguards made more than 1,600 ocean rescues this summer, Boiteux said. He added that the junior lifeguard system was successful, with nearly 150 children participating.

Volunteers on Patrol leader Mark Russo said the team was working closely with the sheriff’s department on parking enforcement. So far this year, the 20-member team has issued 14,811 parking citations, Russo said, generating about $980,000 in fines.

This year’s summer beach team—a special patrol of LA County Sheriff’s Deputies working overtime to patrol Malibu’s beaches—began operating beginning in early May due to unseasonably warm weather and an increase in visitors due to COVID-19, according to a staff report prepared by LASD Lt. Jim Braden. The team generally begins working on Memorial Day weekend.

“The increased visibility and additional daily enforcement have proven to be extremely successful in maintaining safety and enforcement for the beach community and on Pacific Coast Highway,” Braden wrote.

The team’s actions included 7,784 parking citations, 608 hazardous traffic citations and 414 towed vehicles. A total of 2,093 citations were issued for visitors drinking alcohol on local beaches. There were also 28 misdemeanor arrests and two felony arrests.

Crime statistics provided by Braden covered year-to-date numbers for 2021 (rather than July 2020-June 2021). They showed a decrease in residential burglaries compared to the same period in 2020, but an increase in locked vehicle burglaries. There was also a sharp uptick in grand theft vehicle reports, or stolen cars, with 42 reported so far this year, compared to just 13 reported in the same span of 2020. 

Eighty-seven arrests were made in the city in the month of August 2021, toward a total of 655 arrests made this year to date. So far, there have been no homicide or forcible rape arrests in 2021; 11 arrests have been made for aggravated assault, four for robbery, 11 for burglary, eight for grand theft auto, two for arson and seven for sex offenses. 

Warrants, vehicle violations and drunk driving/boating made up the majority of arrests.

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