Marina firefighters thank area restaurants after returning from fighting Malibu fires

To the Editor:

On October 20th a Red Flag Alert was issued as the humidity dropped and the hot Santa Ana wind speed was expected to increase. All too well, the firefighters know this combination brings the possibility of a fire disaster. But still, the crew of Los Angeles County Fire Station 110 in Marina del Rey had no idea what lay ahead.

At 4:56 a.m. the fire alarm rang. Malibu was burning!

The first arriving fire captain in Malibu knew he was in for a life-threatening fight. He called for the closest 20 engines, strike teams and air operations to respond.

Brand-new Fire Engine 110 responded. For the next three days the crew pumped thousands of gallons of water. Their mission: save lives, protect property.

Numerous other fires started, fought by hundreds of fire engines and personnel numbering in the thousands.

Blinded by thick smoke, the engineer of Fire Engine 110 could barely make out the road ahead. The crew members were exhausted by lack of sleep, overheated by the surrounding fire and depleted of fluids by the low humidity.

The brand-new fire engine did not come out of the battle unscathed. Flying objects, propelled by 60-to-80-mile-per-hour winds, crashed into the rig.

The engine and crew were hit with an overspray of fire retardant from an aerial bombardment.

With the Malibu fire now mostly contained, Fire Engine 110, along with others, was released to return to its home station.

Covered with dirt, grime and fire retardant, Engine 110 backed into the fire station. The firefighters who were left behind to protect Marina del Rey with reduced equipment and supplies welcomed the warriors back. The firefighters climbed down from the engine, followed by the acrid smell of a three-day battle.

Showered and shaved, the crew was met with a meal brought in by Fire Station 110’s unofficial “house mother,” Mary Anne Bradley. Through her business, Festival of Brides, she had recruited Gelson’s Market, Viktor Bene’s Bakery, Ralphs Market, Panini CafÈ and Cousin Cheryl’s to donate cooked meals for the tired firefighters, who were totally surprised.

“Many times we receive a quiet thanks from those we help at rescues or fires; infrequently are we served with a meal and a handshake,” said Fire Captain Kevin Paulson. “It really touches our hearts.”

The next day others jumped to donate, including The Ritz-Carlton, Cousin Cheryl’s and Tony P’s, led by Wally, general manager of the Del Rey CafÈ. Others donating food included Beachside CafÈ, Hornblower Yachts, Fantasea Yachts, Marina del Rey Hotel and the Tiki Mermaid. None of these businesses were touched by the tremendous fires surrounding Southern California — or were they?

So who really says “thank you,” the firefighters or the public? I say both, equally. We have all come together and touched each other’s soul in a time of crisis.

Fire Fighter, Specialist/Paramedic, Larry Colgan, Fire Station 110, Marina del Rey

Pilot disputes Santa Monica Airport jet numbers and crash assertions

To the Editor:

Re: “Council takes steps to improve runway safety” in the October 18th Argonaut:

I read with interest your article about “runway safety” at Santa Monica Airport. The article is less than accurate. The jet aircraft in the photograph is described in the caption as a “Gulfstream IV.” It is a Gulfstream G-200, not a Gulfstream IV.

The article attributes to Cathy Larson of Friends of Sunset Park the assertion that “over 50 per cent of the air traffic at Santa Monica Airport consists of Category C and D aircraft.” This is an inaccurate assertion.

According to the Santa Monica Airport Commission’s own report of noise ordinance enforcement for 2006, only 13 percent of the total Santa Monica Airport operations (takeoffs and landings) in 2006 consisted of jet aircraft.

Not all jet aircraft are Category C or D (smaller cabin jets often approach category B at maximum landing weight) and the vast majority of propeller aircraft at Santa Monica are Category A and some are B. It is unlikely that any significant number of the propeller operations involved Category C or D aircraft. That would seem to leave significantly less than 13 percent as Category C or D. (These aircraft are typically flown by a professional flight crew consisting of two pilots and are already subject to specific runway length requirements.)

The article mentions an aircraft accident at the airport “about four years ago,” and quotes Colin Hatton, board member on the Mar Vista Community Council. My review of aircraft accident data for Santa Monica (at least for the last 20 to 25 years) indicates that no Category C or D aircraft has ever been involved in an accident at Santa Monica and that runway length has never been causal to an accident.

In 2003, a Category A aircraft crashed off-airport in the Fairfax area for reasons that had nothing to do with runway length.

In 2004, a Category A aircraft crashed in the Mar Vista area for reasons that had nothing to do with runway length.

In 2001, a twin-engine propeller-driven Cessna 340 (Category A or B) did run off the end of the runway on takeoff. However, as I recall, NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] investigation revealed that the pilot of that aircraft had attempted to take off with the control locks installed.

As an attorney who is also a jet-rated airline transport pilot and a flight instructor, and who has piloted both propeller aircraft and jet aircraft into and out of Santa Monica and many other airports nationwide, and who has worked on aviation legal matters, I await with interest news of any post-enactment legal challenges to the proposed city ordinance described in the article.

In recent years, the Santa Monica City Council attempted to institute a landing fee ordinance, which was stricken by the FAA for its discriminatory effect on larger jet aircraft. (The ordinance imposed steep landing fees on larger jet aircraft for pavement maintenance/improvements, but the fees imposed were ultimately deemed way out of proportion to the pavement wear attributable to those minority use jet aircraft versus other airport users.)

City resources were expended in unsuccessfully defending that ordinance. Having failed in its relatively recent attempt to levy a discriminatory landing fee on large-cabin private jet aircraft, the Santa Monica City Council now apparently seeks to “ban” said aircraft entirely.

As a recipient of federal funds and also given the primacy of federal regulation in aviation, the airport sponsor (here, Santa Monica) treads on shaky ground when it attempts to regulate air traffic and air commerce through local ordinances.

Safety is, of course, a prime concern in aviation. However, it is important to air commerce and to aviation safety that regulation be rationally and factually based, appropriate to the potential hazards, and not in conflict with federal law.

Robert F. Henry, Playa del Rey

Asks who is responsible for overwatering, blocked lanes

To the Editor:

So everyone in California is aware of the water shortage, right? Maybe not. If you drive down the streets of Marina del Rey at 6 a.m. you get a wet windshield, and there goes your new wash job from yesterday.

It seems the city or county (or whoever) has not learned that we have a water shortage, because the sprinkler system along the center dividers and curbs must have been going for hours, soaking not only the plants and grass, but also the roadways.

You see, it works like this, groundskeepersÖ when the soil gets so hydrated that it can no longer allow the water to permeate the soil, it flows into the street, and that is called “wasted water.”

Wouldn’t it make more sense to set the timers to a lesser amount of time on the watering clock to keep this from happening since, once again, we do have a water shortage?

This has been going on for as long as I can remember, water shortage or not, and sooner or later somebody should step up and say something.

And, what’s with the three lanes in front of Electronic Arts on the northbound side of Lincoln Boulevard? There are prohibitory cones blocking those right turn lanes from being used, in turn taking away the southbound left turn lanes that were previously used.

Is that just to create a long line of traffic trying to turn left from the southbound side of Lincoln onto Jefferson Boulevard, blocking traffic all the way back up Lincoln? This is what happens at 8 a.m. during rush hour.

There has been no construction there for months, nothing going on, nothing happening. Once again, what are they thinking?

My question is: who is actually responsible for the sprinkler system in Marina del Rey and the blocking of three perfectly good turn lanes in front of Electronic Arts on Lincoln?

Be careful out there. It’s wet.

Roger Breternitz, Marina del Rey