There was a small ray of hope on the coronavirus front this week. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Los Angeles County has dropped below 1,600 for the first time in nearly a month, according to a County Health report issued on September 5. The decline was slight—1,593 new hospitalizations, instead of 1,600+, but it was welcome news for a county grappling with the Delta variant. However, the level of transmission in the county remains high, and new data shows that hospitals are filling up with a different demographic than last year at this time: COVID-19 patients who are younger, healthier and mostly unvaccinated. It’s a troubling trend. 

The local mountain lion population has suffered a setback. An adolescent male mountain lion was shot after it attacked a five year boy in the front yard of a Monte Nido home. The child was injured but will recover. His mother was praised for taking quick action. 

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife released a statement confirming that DNA tests verified that the lion that was killed in response to the incident was the one that attacked the child. The dead cat’s sibling was captured, tagged and released.

TNT recently published a photograph of this same mountain lion family at a fountain in a Monte Nido garden. As much as we enjoy seeing these beautiful wild neighbors, we need to make sure these cats stay wild and stay away from human habitations to prevent more tragedies like this one. This imperiled population is already on the edge of extinction. The Mountain Lion Foundation has practical advice for everyone who lives in or visits mountain lion habitat. Knowing how to respond to an encounter with a big cat can help prevent problems: www.mountainlion.org/stay-safe/

If there seemed to be more people in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area over Labor Day weekend it may be because of the National Forest Service’s decision to close all National Forests in California through September 17.

The closure is intended to help reduce fire risk and protect the public during a time when emergency services are stretched to the breaking point. More than 6,800 wildfires have already burned more than 1.7 million acres of national forest land across California, with active, out of control fires burning into popular hiking and camping areas like Lake Tahoe. 

The closure has left many confused. National Parks like Sequoia remain open, but the much larger adjacent Sequoia National Forest is closed. If in doubt, stay home. This is probably not the year for that Sierra camping trip, no matter how loudly the mountains are calling. In Southern California, National forest land in the San Gabriel, San Bernardino and Los Padres Mountains is closed, but National Parks, including the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, remain fully open, Peak fire season is here and fire risk remains critically high throughout the entire state, regardless of which parks are open.

There has been some good news on the fire front. Containment numbers on the Dixie fire are gradually improving. This mega-blaze ignited on July 13 in Lassen County and has burned nearly 900,000 acres across five counties. Evacuation orders have been lifted for many residents affected by the smaller but still massive Caldor Fire, which is also still active and has burned more than 214,107 acres in the Lake Tahoe Area. For the survivors of these disasters, the road to recovery will be challenging, continuing long after the disasters are no longer part of the news cycle. 

The city of Malibu has announced that September is disaster preparation month. The city’s online disaster resources are available to everyone, not just residents of the 90265 area code: visit MalibuCity.org/PrepMonth to learn more. This is a good time to check emergency supplies, update family evacuation plans, and sign up for emergency notifications from the county and to keep an eye on the emergency status page of T-CEP—Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness—www.t-cep.org.

Autumn brings extreme high fire risk to the Santa Monica Mountains this year, but this is also the season with some of the most summer-like weather of the year, a time to be outdoors and enjoy the things that make Topanga and the Santa Monica Mountains so special. Our TNT Coast and Canyon Autumn Almanac in this issue highlights some of the natural wonders of the season, from migratory birds to astronomical phenomena.

Our cover feature is on Topanga artist Peter Kagan, whose powerful and compelling photography exhibit Life + Limb at the Topanga Canyon Gallery is a must-see event. Learn more on page 12

We also take a look at an innovative company that is developing responsible, truly biodegradable packaging, and TNT historian Jimmy Morgan celebrates the end of baseball season with a nostalgic look back at America’s Pastime. 

Autumn is almost here.

Stay safe, be well.