Homeland Security Network Blog
Burned California town shares lessons learned from wildfires
Burned California town shares lessons learned from fire
by Vickie Aldous
Both the Almeda fire and Woolsey fire were fast-moving infernos driven by hot, dry winds. At the time each started, Malibu and Jackson County were under red flag warnings due to wind and the extreme risk of fire.
The city of Malibu thought it was reasonably prepared for a fire. It had tested its reverse 9-1-1 system that sends out emergency alerts and had satellite phones and other gear to deal with disruptions.
“We’re disaster central. We frequently burn,” Feldman said.
But the Woolsey fire was only one of three major fires that broke out that day in California, including the Camp fire that leveled Paradise, California, and killed more than 80 people. The Woolsey fire killed three and forced the evacuation of more than 295,000 people.
As the fire advanced toward Malibu, firefighters tried to use a major highway as a fire break, but they were no match for winds that swept embers two miles ahead of the flames.
The fire was 14 miles wide and wiped out more than 2,000 power poles. People weren’t able to get the reverse 9-1-1 system’s calls, texts and emails, and they couldn’t watch warnings on television, Feldman said.
She said she was working in her area’s emergency operations center, unaware the public wasn’t getting the evacuation alerts.
It was only the actions of those on the ground that saved people’s lives — not the alert system, Feldman said.
The traffic signals on the highway out of Malibu stopped working and people were stuck in the roadway. It took hours to get all four lanes of the two-way highway switched over to an exit-only direction, she said.
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