According to a draft comprehensive review of the Woolsey Fire released this week, LA County was prepared for a ‘typical to serious emergency’, but not for a fire with the unprecedented dynamics and scale of the Woolsey Fire.
Even some of the largest, most experienced agencies in the country were, at times, overwhelmed by the fire’s speed and impact, which included fire burning through three of four historic corridors in the Santa Monica Mountains, racing from Highway 101 through Malibu in just six hours.
The Woolsey Fire’s unprecedented size and speed was driven by a unique confluence of wind, fuel and topography, and containing it was hampered by these factors, combined with a shortage of mutual aid firefighting resources. As the Woolsey Fire developed during the late afternoon and evening of November 8, the Hill Fire in Ventura County already posed an immediate danger and consumed significant firefighting mutual aid resources. On November 9, only 50% of requested mutual aid firefighting resources were provided to the Woolsey Fire. Given the speed of the fire and the exhaustion of the mutual aid system, the Woolsey Fire Command Team was forced to strategically shift resources to prioritize life safety over the protection of property, up-ending residents’ expectations of how the fire would be fought based upon previous wildfires.
LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl who initiated the After Action Report which is believed to be one of the most comprehensive reviews ever conducted in California, said, “This draft report makes clear that many County departments did an outstanding job to save lives, but there are steps that the County, city governments, community and homeowners groups, and individual residents must take in order to improve our emergency response. The recommendations in this draft report call for more frequent and clearer communications to residents and between agencies, as well as for better collaboration across counties, county departments, cities and special districts. Fires don’t pay attention to county and city boundaries, and our coordinated response must also operate seamlessly between jurisdictions at the speed the incident is moving.”
The draft After Action Report which includes 155 findings and 86 actionable recommendations will be presented at a special meeting of the Woolsey Fire Task Force this Saturday, October 26, 10 am to 2 pm at Agoura Hills Performing Arts and Education Center located on the campus of Agoura Hills High School. Members of the Woolsey Fire Task Force include representatives from Los Angeles and Ventura County departments, the City of Los Angeles, cooperating emergency agencies, cities, parks, and community leaders. The meeting is open to the public. A public comment period will begin on October 26 and extend through November 8. A second Task Force special meeting, also open to the public, will be held on November 17 to review and approve the final report.