For the Fire Department, the names of the game are prevention and safety for all

“We’re light years away from where we were just a couple of years ago,” said Division Chief Tom Christopher of the Laguna Beach Fire Dept. He was speaking of the preparations the department has put in place to protect the city when, not if, Laguna Beach faces its next big wildfire.

Fire Chief Kris Head manages and coordinates the duties assigned to the department’s three chief officers: Deputy Chief Jeff LaTendresse – Operations; Division Chief Dan Stefano – Training; and Christopher – Fire Prevention.

“It’s a four part plan and we need all of us to tie it all together. And the work we’ve been doing applies to flooding as well,” Christopher said.

Fire has three necessary elements – oxygen, fuel and heat. Take any of the three away and the fire is out.

Oxygen is, obviously, always available. There is nothing on the surface the department can do to remove it – until there is a fire. Santa Ana winds or the prevailing winds off the Pacific Ocean can whip this element into a ferocious factor. Foam can be sprayed onto a blaze and that will cut off its oxygen supply and it is sometimes used for a wildfire.

Heat can be added to the equation by many means – accidentally, lightning, or by a match from a human hand.

Fuel is everywhere in Laguna Beach. In certain areas, Ray Lardie’s goats are on the job reducing the dry growth on our hillsides and in some canyons where the city has control. It’s known as fuel modification – or fuel mod – as firefighters know to be. Lardie, a retired LBPD sergeant, maps out where the goats need to be and also oversees the city’s weed abatement ordinances that also helps keep the growth in check.

Currently, Lardie oversees a private contractor awarded a contract of about $130,000 to use hand crews remove the thick growth of dry non-native plants in Oro Canyon. When completed in the not-too-distant future, homes there will have a defensible space of 125 feet into the massive interior canyon that runs from Del Mar Avenue that connects upper and lower Arch Beach Heights all the way to Glenneyre.

Christopher explains that Oro Canyon, while not that different from ant canyon in town, could be a “perfect storm” if certain conditions fall into place someday.

The area east of Laguna off the fire road that connects Arch Beach Heights and Top of the World is within Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park and it hasn’t burned in many years. “The Santa Ana winds, under certain circumstances, blow straight down toward the slope in the wilderness area. If a fire starts on the slope going up toward the fire road, we can expect an ember shower that will easily reach Oro Canyon. That would be catastrophic.”

Staff photos by Cliff Getz

This shot, taken from lower Arch Beach looking across Oro Canyon, shows the heavy growth that hand crews are removing next to the homes that line the tops of canyon walls on both sides.

The thick, extremely dry growth at the bottom of Oro Canyon is found throughout Laguna Beach. Fires are slope driven and the hotter the bottom, the faster and more out of control it is at the top. Firefighters do not make frontal attacks on flames above eight feet in height, which will always be the case with a slope-driven canyon wall fire in the city.

Oro Canyon is not the only concern. Christopher: “Ninety-five percent of Laguna Beach is categorized as being very high risk for fire threat.”

Fire insurance premiums reflect that Laguna Beach is at the highest risk level for a wildfire.

The department used its Mutual Threat Policy with the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) last Wednesday night after a fire started by human hands burned less than an acre off Alta Laguna Extension.

The Mutual Threat Policy hands off the dispatching of equipment to OCFA in less than a minute. Depending upon the level of threat the OCFA is then operating under (it changes as conditions dictate), apparatus from OCFA is automatically dispatched, as was the case Wednesday night.

Had there been a Santa Ana wind howling, it’s a good bet that another new system implemented in the recent past would have been necessary.

The Structure Protection Group is a preprogrammed plan for the evacuation of every home in Laguna Beach. The AlertOC telephone plan is put into effect for specific streets/areas that will notify residents to get out – immediately.

The importance of having all of your phones and email registered with AlertOC will be underscored if you understand the city and fire department efforts, from the Chief to each Engine Company’s Captain, that have been worked and trained so hard to protect us in the event of a major fire or flood.

Chief Head has put together a detailed notebook explaining to OCFA (and beyond) fire company captains that respond to Laguna Beach in the event of a disaster.


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Updates from the Laguna Beach City Manager’s office

The City Manager’s office prepares a memo for Councilmembers weekly with notes covering many subjects.

Released: October 13, 2011

AlertOC Test on October 20 - On Thursday, Oct 20 at 5 p.m., Laguna Beach will be participating in a regional emergency test in conjunction with the Great Shake Out; the largest earthquake drill in U.S. history. Part of the exercise will be to test the AlertOC system in which all registered phone numbers will be called with a pre-recorded message. Citizens wishing to add their cell phones, work phones, email addresses, and TDD/TTY devices to the system can do so by logging into

2011 Palette Competition - At its meeting on Monday, the Arts Commission reviewed submissions to the annual Palette Competition. Designs by Laguna Beach artists Audrey Miller and Carla Rogers were selected. Holiday palettes are exhibited throughout the city from Thanksgiving through January 1, 2012. This program is funded by the lodging establishments and the City of Laguna Beach.

Juried Fine Art Exhibition - The Arts Commission will be installing the Juried Fine Art Exhibition at City Hall on Monday, Oct 17. The exhibition was juried by Richard Chang, the Arts and Entertainment Writer and Visual Art Critic for The Orange County Register. Mr. Chang selected 40 artists from throughout Orange County to participate in the exhibition. Winners will be announced on Thursday, Nov 3 at 5 p.m. and the exhibition will be on display through Nov 23, 2011. This program is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach.

Rotary Car Show - On Sunday, Oct 16, the Forest Laguna Canyon parking lot will be closed from 5:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Rotary Club of Laguna Beach will hold their Annual Classic Car Show in the City lot and at the Festival of Arts grounds. The Classic Car Show raises funds for local scholarships, charities and outreach projects.

Haunting News of Another Street Closure - Every year on Halloween the Police Department has been closing Oak Street in the 400 and 500 blocks for safety reasons due to the increasing numbers of “Trick-or-Treaters” who swarm the neighborhood. This year, residents on Brooks Street have asked for a similar closure and the City will include this neighborhood in a trial program to close the street during the evening hours on Halloween.

Main Beach Construction Begins - Construction activity for the new Main Beach sewage lift station will begin this Monday, Oct 17. Preliminary work including layout and surveying will start next week followed by the relocations of electrical, gas, and water utilities the following week. Heavy construction will begin once the construction fencing is installed around the site. Once the site is secured, the shoring installation will begin toward the end of October. The project site is small and the basketball courts will need to be closed from Oct 28 through April 2012 to facilitate construction activities.

Fire Station Tours - This Saturday, Oct 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Fire Department would like to invite the public to visit their local fire stations. As part of Fire Prevention Week each of the City’s four fire stations will be open for public tours and to answer questions about fire prevention topics. Fire Prevention Week is October 9 through the 15; this year’s theme is “protect your family from fire.”

Design Review Board has two seats opening – City Council appointments

The City Council of the City of Laguna Beach is accepting applications for the Board of Adjustment/Design Review Board. Appointments will be made to fill two terms that will extend through Jan 31, 2014.

Interviews will be held on Oct 18, 2011, at 6 p.m. by the City Council at their regular meeting in the Council Chambers, 505 Forest Ave.

Applicants should have attended at least two current meetings of the Board prior to the interviews.

The Board of Adjustment is a five-member body appointed by the City Council for the purpose of considering requests for variances from the zoning code. The members also sit as the City’s Design Review Board.

Board members serve a two-year term and are compensated in the amount of $230.00 per month. The Board meets twice a month.

substantial time commitment of approximately 10 hours per week is necessary to be a Board member. In addition to attending meetings, Board members are expected to visit the project sites and review the plans of projects prior to the meeting. The Board acts on an average of 15 items per meeting.

It is desirable to have or be able to acquire certain skills or aptitudes, such as the ability to understand and conceptualize architectural drawings and to visualize building mass and volumes based on-site staking plans. Experience in the building trades, architecture, historic preservation, landscaping, planning and/or real estate would be an asset.

Laguna Beach residents who are interested in applying should obtain an application from the City Clerk’s office or on-line at the City’s web site, and file it by Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011, at 5 p.m. Questions may be directed to the City Clerk 497-0705.

City to hold plastic carryout bag ordinance workshop for Laguna businesses at workshop on Oct 19

The City will hold a public workshop at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct 19 2011, in the City Council Chambers in City Hall to solicit comments from local retail and eating establishments on the City’s proposal to adopt an ordinance banning the distribution of plastic carryout bags to customers.

The proposed ordinance would also apply to City-sponsored events or events held on City property, such as the Farmer’s Market.

The proposed ordinance would require that only recycled paper or reusable carryout bags could be distributed to customers at the point of purchase.  The ordinance would not extend to the distribution of plastic produce bags or product bags provided by the retailer exclusively to carry produce, meats or products to the point of purchase or to prevent food items from coming into direct contact with other purchased items.

The proposed ordinance requires that the retailer charge a fee for each paper bag distributed to customers.  The fee would be collected and used exclusively by the retailer to implement the reusable and recycled paper carryout bag program.

Carryout bags would be required to be 100% recyclable and contain at least 40% post-consumer recycled content.

The public is also invited to attend the workshop. An agenda will be available at a week prior to the workshop.  For additional information or questions, please call the City at 497-0390.

Emergency Disaster Preparedness Committee has one vacancy

The City Council is currently accepting applications for one term on the Emergency Disaster Preparedness Committee. Unlike other City committees, the Council will consider not only residents of Laguna Beach, but also of Emerald Bay.

The Committee will make recommendations to the Council and will perform, but not be limited to the following:

• Provide an ongoing forum for ideas and input from residents, businesses, services providers, etc. regarding what they can do to be prepared for the next emergency or disaster;

• Research grant funding and other funding opportunities to support disaster preparedness and public safety related to same;

• Provide input to the City Council and staff regarding ideas to be incorporated into the “official” Emergency Preparedness Plan of the City.

• Help neighborhoods organize for disaster preparedness;

• Work with the Chamber of Commerce to help businesses throughout town organize for disaster preparedness and establish a process to conduct timely assessments of businesses impacted by a disaster;

• Work with the Resource Center to prepare for potential emergencies (e.g. help in developing a standard post-disaster resident needs assessment process, help to refine a clearinghouse system for victims or those displaced during a disaster, maintain a list of others that can help following a disaster, etc.); and

• Identify local resources that can help in the event of an emergency (e.g. grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware and supply stores, large non-profit organizations) and provide that information to the relevant City Council and City Departments.

Laguna Beach or Emerald Bay residents who are interested in these positions, are required to submit an application, which is available at the City Clerk’s office or on the City’s web site at  (Go to City Hall—Boards & Commissions—Application).

Applications must be filed with the City Clerk by 5 p.m., Tuesday Oct 11, 2011.  All applicants will be interviewed by the City Council at their regular meeting of Oct 18, 2011, at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 505 Forest Avenue, Laguna Beach.

Updates from the Laguna Beach City Manager’s office

The City Manager’s office prepares a memo for Councilmembers weekly with notes covering many subjects.

Released: October 6, 2011

2011 Children’s Holiday Palette Exhibition – The Arts Commission is currently accepting entries from children ages 5 to 17 who reside or attend a school or art program in Laguna Beach for the annual palette exhibition. Designs must be submitted on a template that can be obtained from the City’s website. The deadline to submit designs is Monday, Nov 14, 2011 by noon.  Selected palette designs will be mounted on small wooden palette and will be exhibited at City Hall throughout December. This program is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach.

September Sunset Serenades – Last week, Arts Commission concluded its month long Friday evening music series at Heisler Park. The concerts were held in the newly created amphitheater by Rockpile. Attendance increased each week with an average attendance of 250. The next season of Sunset Serenades will be held at the same location in May 2012. This program is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach.

Sign up for Arts Information – The Cultural Arts Department is encouraging artists and community members who are interested in receiving information for public art competitions, Artist Open Studios or Cultural Calendar to sign-up for e-notifications on the City’s website. Other available notifications are for traffic alerts, the City Council agenda, the Recreation Brochure, and job opportunities. To receive e-mail alerts register at

Dry Season Surface Water Diversions Offline – The City operates and maintains 18 urban water diversion units covering the majority of the City’s watersheds.  The diversions have proven to be an indispensable element of the best management practices employed to improve ocean water quality.  These diversions are left online as long as they can be during the dry season and into the fall months.  The diverted runoff is directed to the City’s sewer system.  Too much water can cause the lift stations to run beyond their capacity range. The rains expected this week pose enough of a concern that all eighteen have been taken offline.  The result will be noticed at outlets along the beach where storm water may be seen discharging as it typically does during the winter season.  The Laguna Channel diversion unit is put back into service during extended dry periods of the winter season.

North Coast Highway Sidewalk Repairs – Caltrans has completed its project to repair damaged sidewalks and curbs at approximately 25 locations along North Coast Highway between Broadway and Cajon Street.

Proposed “Mini” Parks – Design Review for two small City parks will be considered by the Planning Commission next Wednesday, Oct 12.  Proposed locations include a view park at 1400 Park Avenue and a passive park at the intersection of Laguna Canyon Frontage Road and Woodland Drive.  Minor improvements at the two sites will include benches, tables, trees and native ground cover.

Increased Crosswalk Enforcement – On Tuesday October 11, 2011, the Police Department will be conducting an increased crosswalk enforcement program at various locations throughout the City using a brightly dressed pedestrian.  Drivers are encouraged to always watch for people stepping off the curb or appearing from behind already stopped vehicles.

Updates from the Laguna Beach City Manager’s office

The City Manager’s office prepares a memo for Councilmembers weekly with notes covering many subjects.

Released: September 29, 2011

Heisler Park Interpretive Sign Series Successfully Installed Along Heisler Park Walkway – A coastal themed interpretive sign series has been installed along the seaward trail of Heisler Park from Diver’s Cove to the stairs above lifeguard headquarters. The six signs are full color depictions with themes covering the kelp forest, ocean pollution, tide pool habitat, tide pool animals, seabirds, and marine mammals.  The signs were designed by the Marine Safety Department in collaboration with Water Quality, installed by the Public Works Department, and funded by the Heisler Park grant.

Laguna Canyon Road Resurfacing – During the first three days of this week, Caltrans was grinding pavement on Laguna Canyon Road in preparation for placement of a layer of new asphalt. This work caused considerable traffic problems. The remainder of the work will be done at night to minimize traffic impacts. There will be daytime work for striping near the end of the project in November. The traffic detection loops have been removed at the Festival traffic signal and at Canyon Acres. The signals will operate on a timed basis until the loops are replaced in November. Because of this, the signals will go through a complete cycle whether or not there is traffic or pedestrians.

Code Enforcement Supervisor – Joe Trujillo, Code Enforcement Supervisor, has accepted a Code Enforcement Manager position with the City of Santa Monica.  We wish Joe the best in his new position.  A recruitment is underway to fill this position.

Food Waste Diversion Pilot Programs – The City is piloting commercial off-site and on-site food waste diversion programs, with the objective of reducing the amount of waste that is sent to the landfill. The Montage and the Tommy Bahamas Restaurant began processing food waste on-site in 2010. Food dehydrators are used to reduce food waste by approximately 90 percent by drying the food waste at 180 degrees for about 18 hours. The output resembles coffee grounds and is used as a fertilizer by the Montage. Waste Management recently began off-site food waste collection after testing the program at the Montage last year. Food waste is collected at the Montage, Albertsons and the Katsuya Restaurant four times per week and transported to Waste Management’s food and organic recycling facility in Orange. Using a separation process, contaminants are removed from the organic waste, which is then turned into organic slurry that can be mixed with other complementary liquids to maximize its use in creating green energy. The Broadway by Amar Santana Restaurant will participate in this program starting next month. Waste Management will also provide carts for food waste collection at the Taste of Laguna and Community Expo event

Fallen Firefighter Memorial – On October 1st, 2011, the annual memorial for California’s fallen firefighters will be held at the Memorial Wall in Sacramento’s Capitol Park.  Our own David Lopez will be performing at the ceremony with approximately 200 other bag pipers.  Mr. Lopez will be representing the Laguna Beach Fire Department while off-duty and funding the trip through donations and his own money.

Updates from the Laguna Beach City Manager’s office

The City Manager’s office prepares a memo for Councilmembers weekly with notes covering many subjects.

Released: September 22, 2011

Artist Open Studios – On Saturday, Oct 1 enjoy the opportunity to visit the art studios of 24 of Laguna’s talented artists. Held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. the event includes free parking and trolley service from the Act V parking lot, located at 1900 Laguna Canyon Road. Artist Open Studios is not only a fantastic opportunity to see, buy or commission beautiful art, it is also an adventure to artists’ studios to uncover new talent and rediscover established artists. This is a program of the Arts Commission and has been funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach.

Canyon Acres Flood Plain Study – The most recent flood plain mapping done by FEMA increased the number of homes in Canyon Acres that are within the mapped 100 year flood plain. Those property owners have been required to purchase flood insurance. The FEMA study did not take into consideration the Canyon Acres storm drain constructed by the City two years ago. In March the City Council authorized a $26,000 engineering study to revise the flood plain mapping. That study has been submitted to FEMA for approval. If approved, then all homes in Canyon Acres would be removed from the 100 year mapped flood plain. FEMA requires that the City send letters to all affected property owners. Letters were sent to 37 property owners this Wednesday.

Firefighter Fundraiser for MDA – On Saturday, Sept 24, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Fire Association will be conducting a “fill-the-boot” fund raising campaign to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The off-duty firefighters will be working in the area of Coast Highway and Beach Street.

Revised State implementation date for South Coast Marine Protected Areas – At the recent California Fish and Game Commission meeting in Redding on Sept 15, the Commission announced an updated implementation date for the south coast study region. The new revised proposed implementation date is Jan 1, 2012. For the Fish and Game press release on the revised date, go to: For more information on the South Coast MPAs or MLPA, visit:

Plastic Bag Ordinance Workshop Scheduled in October – A workshop for local retail operators and restaurants owners to hear details and provide comments about a proposed city ordinance to prohibit retail establishments from distributing single-use, plastic carryout bags to customers is scheduled for 10:30 a.m., Wednesday, Oct 19 in the City Council Chambers. Although workshops are frequently held in the evening, a morning workshop is preferred in this situation to accommodate members of the retail industry and get their feedback along with the public.  This is similar to what was done with the polystyrene issue. Please call 497-0390 with any questions about the proposed ordinance.

New Public Safety Communications Supervisor Kristen Berry – With the retirement of Rita Fraser, the Public Safety Communications Supervisor position was filled this week by Kristen Berry. Kristen comes to us from West Com where she supervised a staff of twenty public safety dispatchers serving three Orange County cities. She has over 22 years of experience in public safety dispatching and is an outstanding addition to the Police and Fire staff.

Eucalyptus Tree Trimming and Inspection – The City maintains 450 Eucalyptus trees. Over the next two months, the City’s tree maintenance contractor will be inspecting and trimming the largest and oldest 225 of these trees.

Updates from the Laguna Beach City Manager’s office

The City Manager’s office prepares a memo for Councilmembers weekly with notes covering many subjects.

Released: September 15, 2011

2011 Artist Designed Bench Competition - At its meeting on Monday, the Arts Commission reviewed finalist designs for an artist designed bench to be installed at the bus stop at Mountain and South Coast Highway. The Commission selected a design titled “Streamline Bench” by artist team Larry Gill and Gavin Heath. The bench will be created of stainless steel, concrete and hand-blown glass. Prior to City Council approval, the design will need to be reviewed by Caltrans and the Design Review Board. This program has been funded by the lodging establishments and the City of Laguna Beach.

September Sunset Serenades - The first of four concerts were held last Friday evening at the Rockpile amphitheater in Heisler Park. An estimated 250 people attended the concert. The concerts start at 5:30 p.m. and are free. The remaining concerts are 9/16 El Re’al Chamber Players, String Trio; 9/23 Kevin Kanner Trio, Jazz; and concludes 9/30 Roland and Adriane with piano and vocals. This program has been funded by the lodging establishments and the City of Laguna Beach.

Water District Hydrant Releases - The City has been informed by the Laguna Beach County Water District that they will be conducting hydraulic pressure testing next week.  The testing procedures require fully opening fire hydrants to measure the available water pressure in adjacent areas.  This will result in brief, but large, water flows being conveyed along gutter lines, into storm drains and a few out to the beach.  The discharge points will be monitored by the Water District staff.  Storm drains will be pre-flushed to clean the majority of material out of the storm drains and into the City’s urban water diversion units.  Other discharge points will be sand bagged to contain and clean the resulting discharges.  The goal of the testing is to develop a hydraulic model that will assist the Water District to identify pipelines requiring upgrades to improve the overall service pressure citywide.  Questions can be answered by the Laguna Beach County Water District at 494-1041.

Fire Department Resources Sent Out of County - On Sept 7 the Fire Department’s wild land engine, E-302, was requested as part of a Strike Team in response to anticipated extreme fire weather in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.  Fortunately, no fires broke out during the weather event and E-302 was released on Sept 9.  E-302 was again requested on Sept 11, along with Division Chief Tom Christopher as Strike Team Leader, to respond to Kern County for the Keene and Comanche Complex Fires.  Over 50 separate wild land fires were started in Kern County from lightning strikes with over 40,000 acres burned on the Keene and Comanche Complex fires as of 9/13/11.  E-302 and Chief Christopher are expected to be released on Thursday, Sept 15.

Approval Of A New Mexican Cuisine Restaurant - At its meeting this past Wednesday, the Planning Commission approved a new Mexican Cuisine Restaurant (Carmelita’s) at 215-217 Broadway.  The restaurant is family owned and operated, and is hoping to cater to families and Laguna Beach locals.

Summer Festival Ridership Increase - Ridership on the summer Festival Transit service this summer was up nearly 20% over last summer. Last year the system carried 486,000 passengers. This summer’s total ridership was 581,000. This summer, the average number of passengers per day was 8,430.

Water Quality Report 2010 - The OC Health Care Agency has released its 2010 Annual Ocean, Harbor & Bay Water Quality Report. The report includes an analysis of bacteriological water quality data for Orange County’s recreational waters. Laguna Beach remains a leader in the region with nearly 100 percent compliance with water quality standards and second lowest beach closure rate in the past ten years.

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