Monopole Issue Could Block Operations at New Malibu County Line Fire Station
• Line of Sight Needed to Improve Communications on Ventura County Wildfires Headed South toward Rest of the 90265 Area
BY ANNE SOBLE
BY ANNE SOBLE
The sliver of Ventura County that has a 90265 zip code is Malibu by mailing address only, with little to no official interaction with the rest of the other addressees. But when an out-of-control wildfire rages through this chaparral area, it has little respect for arbitrary political boundary lines.
Thus the opening of the new, larger Ventura County Fire Station 56 is good news to many Los Angeles County Malibuites who have watched wildfires head south and southwest from Ventura County to threaten homes in western Malibu as far as Encinal and Decker canyons.
In 1993, wildfire roared through that area, taking out landmark homes, such as that of Tony Duquette, and Dwight Yoakum’s ranch house. Ventura County firefighters were on the front lines, assisting their Los Angeles counterparts.
However, the new station may not be able to begin operations until a view issue with some of its neighbors is resolved. They oppose plans to install a 50-foot monopole radio tower with a 20-foot whip antenna atop the station, even though the upgrade in communications is deemed a necessity by the Ventura County Fire Department.
During a county planning commission meeting last month, neighbors delayed a permit for the tower. The Fire Department then lowered the proposed tower height by 20 feet, but contends it cannot change the design.
The fire department has had plans to install the monopole setup at the new station for several years to improve coverage of the coast where radio signals readily drop out and to boost the relay from key equipment at Point Mugu.
Abbe Berns, the assistant director of fire services for the VCFD told the Malibu Surfside News this week that the matter is now set for resolution before the director of the VC planning department on May 15.
She said both sides are hiring experts for the fray. The fire department has brought a specialist from Motorola on board.
Berns said the department cannot run conduit underground and obtain the necessary signal strength. It needs a line-of-sight signal from Point Mugu.
She said, “Our biggest concern is that each proposal to change [the design] adds an additional point of failure [and] in addition to transmission issues, there are security issues.”
Berns added that the proposed design is the best for the site and maximizes ability to alert, talk in and talk out and provides radio redundancy, which can be critical in an emergency, while being protective of the public safety channels.
The VCFD spokesperson said the next three months will allow for study of every option, but the “bottom line for the department has to be reliability.”
She said county personnel and equipment can’t be utilized to save lives and homes if there isn’t a way to get crisis information from one point to another.