Visitors to Zuma Beach on Jan. 11 were treated to an unusual sight: four of the Fire Department’s red dozers rebuilding sand berms to protect facilities at the beach.
This was the second time this winter that the Department of Beaches and Harbors (DBH) requested the services of the Fire Department’s bulldozers to rebuild multiple berms at Zuma Beach. The first request came just before Christmas Eve, and four dozer teams spent about 8 hours on Dec. 24 moving sand to rebuild the berms, said Heavy Equipment Unit supervisor Dan Shuford.
According to Lifeguard Captain Kenichi Haskett, the sand berms—ridges of sand at the high tide line to protect structures and prevent flooding during storms and tidal surges—are built as needed based on weather projections from the National Weather Service. Usually, DBH builds the sand berms with its own bulldozers.
“Due to the high surf we experienced during the past four weeks, the berms were being washed away,” according to a DBH representative. “DBH didn’t have the equipment needed to stay on top of them and still meet the needs of the other locations.”
Enter the Fire Department’s dozer teams.
“We were able to have the dozer teams come out at the last minute … to build those berms to protect the County facility” at Zuma Beach, Haskett said. “They had a smaller berm, but they needed to build it up higher to protect (the facility). They were worried about the high surf and high tides.”
In all, the Fire Department’s dozer teams rebuilt eight sand berms along Zuma Beach, according to DBH. These berms protect six beach restrooms, DBH’s maintenance yard and the lifeguard headquarters.
Beginning Nov . 2, DBH began constructing berms 12 to 15 feet tall, according to that department’s website dedicated to El Niño. Sixteen berms were planned.
“They’re going to have to put up more than normal because of the sand we’ve lost because of the swells and because of El Niño,” Haskett said. “It’s common for sand to erode during winter because of the winter storms … that create swells and waves that tend to erode a lot of our beaches.”
This season is not the first time that the Fire Department’s dozer teams have helped out on the beach. The dozer teams usually help build berms once a year, according to Shuford.
“Due to the storms that will most likely be coming in, the high surf, the high tide, I think we’ll be in at least one more time, if not two more times,” he said.
It won’t be at Zuma Beach, however. Beginning in February, DBH will stage two of its own dozers at that beach.
Nevertheless, it’s “very likely” that DBH will ask for the Fire Department’s assistance in the future, DBH said.
“DBH will work with its internal resources and will reach out to LACoFD if needed,” according to the DBH representative.