August 27, 2014

69Bravo Helispot in Topanga Provides Water for Fighting Fires

 

PHOTO BY AERO FILMS

69Bravo Helispot in Topanga Provides Water for Fighting Fires

L. A. County Firehawk and pilots on a landing pad at 69Bravo Helispot ready to conduct a water-drop demonstration on April 26 during the Topanga Evacuation Drill. Four helicopters can take on 1,000 gallons in five minutes from the pumpkins.

Few people know it, but Topanga is central to the speedy response capabilities of the L. A. County Fire Department’s (LAFD) water-dropping Firehawk helicopters when a fire erupts, as happened with the “Sun” fire at Red Rock and Old Topanga Canyon Road on January 14. Around the same time, the Firehawks were fighting a fire along Pacific Coast Highway and Chatauqua.

On May 4, they put down a fire in the Palisades Highlands in a little more than four hours before it could sweep into Topanga (See related article on page 4).

The Firehawks used 38,000 gallons of water to put down both the Topanga Sun and Palisades/PCH fires in two hours, in contrast to the 1993 Topanga fire that raged through Malibu to the beach, turning back into Topanga before it was extinguished. That fire took 250,000 gallons of water over two days to put that fire down.

PHOTO BY AERO FILMS

69Bravo Helispot in Topanga Provides Water for Fighting Fires

Two Firehawks take on 1,000 gallons of water each from “pumpkins,” orange-rimmed reservoirs that hold 5,000 gallons of water.

In 2009, the LAFD and the Sheriff’s Department asked the owner (who wishes to remain anonymous) of 34 acres on Saddle Peak for permission to establish a “Helistop” there. He didn’t hesitate to respond. By 2010, two helipads, one for the Sheriffs and one for LAFD, were set up along with two 6,000-gallon water reservoirs called “pumpkins” because of their orange rim. The site accommodates two helicopters on the pads, one refueling on a third pad while two fill up with water from the pumpkins. Four helicopters can take on 1,000 gallons every five minutes.

The helicopters, based at the L.A.Co.F.D. “Barton Headquarters” adjacent to Whiteman Airport located in the northern part of the San Fernando Valley, can be at 69Bravo in six minutes taking on water instantly. It takes a Fire Station 69 crew 20 minutes to drive a truck there from the Boulevard.

PHOTO BY AERO FILMS

69Bravo Helispot in Topanga Provides Water for Fighting Fires

A Firehawk discharges its water on a nearby hillside in Topanga.

The Helispot is the major source of water for Topanga, the eastern Malibu area, Pacific Palisades and Calabasas and can also be used as a command center; T-CEP has placed two repeaters there.

“I’ve got a 900-foot deep well and installed eight hydrants, so we hold almost 25,000 gallons of water on this property,” the owner said, adding, “The turn-around time to a fire is the biggest asset to the property.”

Aside from being breath-taking and 360 degrees, the view is another asset that would be a perfect spot for Arson Watch volunteers to set up on Red Flag days.

Pointing to the horizon, the owner says, “that’s La Jolla, 129 miles away, and there’s downtown L.A.,” whose skyline was visible through a light haze. “The Fire Department estimated we are in the middle of the potential rough zone.”

PHOTO BY AERO FILMS

69Bravo Helispot in Topanga Provides Water for Fighting Fires

A Firehawk gets up close and personal.

On April 26, the day of the County’s Topanga Evacuation Drill, a team of two Firehawks performed a practice demo at 69Bravo, hovering over the pumpkins in tandem, then lifting high to target the hillside and drop plumes of water on what, gratefully, were imaginary infernos.

Were it not for our anonymous benefactor, L.A. County officials and agencies, and the many volunteer organizations, Topanga and the Santa Monica Mountains would not be as safe as they are from another devastating fire like that of 1993.

Topangans may sleep peacefully, but they, too, like our firefighters, must always be on alert as long as they choose to live here.

Please remember to do your part, as well. Study the Survival Guide and Workbook, available at OneTopanga.com; and lacounty.fire.gov to review the “Ready, Set, Go!” 12-page booklet that was sent to all residents, and follow the steps from “Get Ready”—preparing your home; to “Get Set”—Preparing your family; to “Go”—Making an early checklist and your own wildfire action plan.