The unofficial start of summer arrived this week, but Memorial Day was a somber, gray day on the coast, more in keeping with the official reason for the holiday than with the beach festivities that often mark the day. The marine layer has been a blessing for fire crews mopping up the last hot spots of the Palisades Fire. The fire was fully contained on May 26, 13 days after it broke out on the Palisades side of Topanga State Park. 

No homes were damaged, no civilians were injured, and the suspected arsonist is in custody. The final acreage for the wildfire was slightly less than initially reported. It is currently estimated at just over 1,200 acres, down from the initial estimate of 1,325. The rough terrain made it difficult to determine the size of the blaze, and it greatly complicated the fire fight and containment process.

Topanga State Park remains closed to the public while crews assess damage and mitigate hazards like burned trees. Residents are asked to respect the closure and stay out of the burn zone for now.

Two days before the Palisades Fire was fully contained, a second blaze broke out in Temescal Canyon at PCH. That fire was quickly extinguished, but not before it spread to more than two acres. It was another unwelcome reminder that fire season has only just begun.

The May Gray gave way to June Gloom this week, and the marine layer may be with us for much of the summer on the coast and coast-facing side of the Santa Monica Mountains. Equatorial sea surface temperatures are near-to-below average over the east-central and eastern Pacific Ocean. That’s an important indicator that La Niña, the atmospheric condition whose temper tantrums generated severe cold throughout much of the country and diverted badly needed rain and snow away from the West, has packed her bags and departed, at least for now. If the neutral condition persists, we could have normal rainfall this winter, something to wish for during what is expected to be a long and potentially explosive fire season.

The Palisades fire was a reminder that fire clearance and home hardening is essential for fire safety, but use caution. This is peak nesting season. Birds and animals are at risk from tree trimmers and weed-whackers. Any cutting or clearance undertaken in spring and early summer requires care. Check for nests first.

Topanga residents on the east side of the Boulevard may see an increase in wildlife, animals displaced by the fire. Keeping cats and small dogs inside, and making sure backyards and patios aren’t a source of food for wildlife can help ensure peaceful coexistence. 

We’ve passed a new coronavirus milestone: 50 percent of all U.S. adults are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Los Angeles County has also reached that milestone.

All over L.A. County, businesses and institutions continue to reopen and venues are coming back to life. Last week, the Getty Center opened its doors to the public for the first time in 14 months, and the Theatricum Botanicum just announced its live 2021 summer season. We have the details on page 16.

We are also looking to the past this issue, with an invitation to view a remarkable photographic archive of Topanga history at the Topanga Historical Society’s June Zoom meeting (page 7), and a trip to Inceville, a place that only exists today as a name on the map of the road to Topanga (page 8). 

We are also looking ahead to a summer of music, arts, and performance. A cautious but joyous revival of community activities and pre-pandemic pleasures like Sunday brunch, Topanga Community Center concerts, and even vacations (remember those?) are in reach again this season.

As Topanga opens up and comes back to life, let’s not forget the people who have needed help during this time. Many of our seniors and homeless residents still need meals and care. People with compromised immune systems will remain at risk from coronavirus. While mask mandates are expected to be lifted in California later this month, continuing to observe safety measures like social distancing and respecting the rights of those who still need to wear masks for their own health and safety, is a small price to pay to protect those who are vulnerable. We are in this together, and right now we are coming through this because we have all been willing to work together for the greater good of all. Let’s not stop now. 

June is here. Summer is coming. The Coronvirus crisis appears to be ending at last. The worst fire in almost three decades in Topanga was fully contained without major damage to the community. At the Theatricum Botanicum, the show goes on once again. Things are good—at least for now.

Stay safe, be well.