Fire Department Reiterates Rambla’s Emergency Needs
• Access Road Could Assist First Responders and Evacuees
BY BILL KOENEKER
BY BILL KOENEKER
Malibu city officials recently received official support for their position approving an access road for Rambla Pacifico when a fire department official wrote the city sharing its viewpoint.
The city, which issued an emergency permit for work to begin on an evacuation route and the Rambla Pacifico Road Association suffered a setback when a Los Angeles judge issued an injunction halting any construction.
“As the assistant fire chief responsible for the City of Malibu, along with neighboring cities and unincorporated areas of the Santa Monica Mountains, I am writing to you to express our department’s support of these road improvements. In the event of a major wildland fire—an occurrence our department feels is inevitable given the extremely dry conditions that currently exist—this access would allow for a much more timely evacuation of the residents in the upper Rambla area. It is important to note that having Rambla Pacifico Road as an emergency evacuation route would also heighten the safety of those trying to evacuate,” wrote Joseph Graham, assistant fire chief, Division VII, central regional operations bureau of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
Graham acknowledged that his department “currently has alternate access to the upper Rambla area,” but connecting upper and lower Rambla to allow emergency access to the area directly from Pacific Coast Highway would “dramatically improve response times to the area.”
The fire department official explained that an emergency evacuation route that currently exists for the residents requires them to travel up into the canyon before they would be able to come back down. “This could very well direct them into a fire area instead of away to an area of safety,” he added.
The new evacuation route would also allow improved access for first responders, “especially for those resources coming from out of the area or other agencies who would not be as familiar with the alternate private road.”
Graham said his department agrees with the city that an emergency exists.
“Given the drought, the three fires in Malibu last year and the past six weeks when thousands of fires burned, we also support the conclusion made by the city that an emergency as defined in the city’s Local Coastal Program, does in fact exist,” he added.
Residents have been trying to reopen Rambla since the 1984 slide. The most recent group, the road association, was formed after the 1993 fire, after homeowners saw that the lack of access caused so many homes to burn.
“Unfortunately the entire community loses as a result,” said Scott Dittrich, who heads up the road association.
The Rambla leader maintains his group is composed of 65 member households. “The road would provide access during a fire or other emergency to nearly 1000 people,” he said.
Dittrich and others state that most of the members of the road association are inside the city, with a smaller percentage outside municipal boundaries.