When Don Schmitz built his home in the hills near the Corral Canyon area of Malibu he was told by the fire department that he was so isolated from the main roads that they probably couldn't help him in case of fire. Don, who is a consultant in land development and permit processing, didn't let that stop him. He put in his own water tower, sprinkler system, and has his own fire truck. During the Corral Canyon fire the fire department used his water to help fight the fire in the surrounding area. As he watched the fire spread the thought occurred to him that if there was a water and sprinkler system in place along the Santa Monica Monica Mountains, fires which seasonally threaten the Malibu area could be thwarted before they created fire storms and the resulting damage.
 

 


 
Don was introduced to the Malibu Rotary Club by Carl Schurtz, who is Executive Director of Coalition for Fire Safe Communities (See http://cfsconline.org), who talked about one of the fatalities of Malibu wildfires, Duncan Gibbons. Gibbons was a British film and music video director, as well as a screenwriter. On November 3, 1993 the 41 year old Gibbins narrowly escaped a wildfire that was roaring through Malibu and was engulfing the home he was renting in flames. Gibbins decided to go back in to rescue a cat that he saw in the burning building. While trying to rescue the cat, he received severe burns, despite jumping in the pool while the pool while fire storm passed. When the fire fighters arrived his words "Please don't let me die!" were uttered in a high pitched voice and smoke came out of his mouth from his burned lungs as he uttered them. He died later at Sherman Oaks Hospital and Health Center's burn unit. Days later, the cat was found unharmed save for a few minor burns. Don Schmitz' Power Point presentation and printed design maps illustrated the extent of losses due to local Wild Fires. We have been fortunate that there hasn't been more loss of lives.
The costs in dollars for the October 21-24, 2007 "Canyon Fire" was $45,000,000. This cost was the sum of $14.8 million in uninsured damages, $5.2 million fire fighting costs to extinguish the flames, and $25 million in insurance claims. There were 36 burned and damaged structures, and also 36 vehicles, along with the 1,059 acres. The Corral Canyon Fire the following month, November 24-26 had $129,900,000 in damages, with $24.5 million in uninsured damages, $5.4 million to extinguish the fire, and $100 million in insurance claims. In that blaze 125 buildings were burnt or damaged along with 14 vehicles in an area of 4901 acres. The California Department of Forestry and Protection has tallied that between 1980 and 2006 total fire suppression expenditures reaches $2 billion.
The Santa Monica Mountains and Malibu are designated as a Very
High Fire Hazard Severity Zone (Class 4) and are subject to devastating wildfires. In addition to stringent year round weed abatement enforcement most measures used to combat fires are reactive rather than proactive. Fire breaks are the most proven and effective method to fight wildfires. These breaks are created with bulldozers and machetes during firestorms and can be 10-40 feet wide. Fire breaks are a necessary component to fighting wildfires. Unfortunately, they can have long-lasting deleterious effects on the environment. Fire fighters are frequently overpowered during firestorms by high speed winds. Don asks the question, "Shouldn't we pull together and create an effective fire protection system? " Don thought about this question and came up with the idea of
A Virtual Levee and Dam System. A Virtual Levee and Dam System A First Fire Defense is created before fires start by creating a virtual levee and dam system with underground water mains on strategic ridgelines in the Santa Monica Mountains. Prepositioned water distribution points will be put along defensible fire breaks. A sensible system of fire breaks, supplemental water tanks and water mains would be installed.
CFSC proposed plan covers most of the Santa Monica Mountains and protects the City of Malibu. It connects into the existing system and has a 100 times better response rate. The alternative is to continue to fund unneeded suppression, recovery and rebuilding costs.
Helicopters drop approximately 500 - 1,000 gallons of water per drop. With 4-8 Drops/hr this amounts to 2,000 - 8,000 gallons/hour. Air tankers drop approximately 1,500 - 2,000 gallons of water per drop. In 2 - 5 drops per hour this amounts to 3,000 - 10,000 gallons/hr. Fire Hydrants flow at 1,250 gallons per minute. So a Hydrant can deliver 75,000 Gallons per hour.
Every fire hydrant has almost 8 times the water capacity of the best aerial drops.
Agricultural Rain Birds shoots water 30 to 50 yards. If these Agricultural Rain Birds could be put at the strategic spots on the ridges of the Santa Monica Mountains along this water system Don believes fires heading through the canyons will


be stopped near their source before they build momentum into unstoppable fire storms. Don believes the system can be built for $80 million. He founded the Coalition for Safe Communities in March 2008 to help high fire risk communities in California design and implement a fire prevention system. The Coalition for Fire Safe Communities (CFSC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Homes located in high fire hazardous zones are at the mercy of uncontrollable winds and fires during firestorms. CFSC was founded to get local and statewide support for the proposed water tank/main model for the Malibu/Santa Monica Mountains area.
If you would like CFSC to do a presentation at your next HOA meeting or other community meeting, please contact Don or Carl at info@cfsconline.org or by calling Carl at (310)457-8246. There office is at 29350 Pacific Coast Highway Suite 12, Malibu, CA 90265.