Southern California environment news and trends

Stephenie Glas, firefighter and Malibu Lagoon activist, dies at 37

Courtesy Stephenie Glas

Malibu resident and LA city firefighter Stephenie Glas (second from left) supported the ongoing restoration project at Malibu Lagoon.

Courtesy Stephenie Glas

Stephenie Glas (right) supported the ongoing restoration project at Malibu Lagoon. Those close to her say escalating tensions over the lagoon could have triggered her suicide Saturday night.


A woman who was a passionate advocate for the restoration of Malibu Lagoon has died from what authorities said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. 

Stephenie Glas was an adrenaline junkie. She loved snowboarding and surfing, and stayed fit after she graduated from UCLA. In recent years she added another passion: Malibu's environment. Friend and neighbor Cece Stein says Glas founded a website called TheRealMalibu411 to promote a state-sponsored plan to improve water quality at the lagoon as the project came under fire from other locals.

"It angered Stephanie because she was committed to the environment," Stein said. "She was a kite surfer. She was an athlete. She was a firefighter."

Stein remembers Glas as tough. She fought fires for the city of Los Angeles for seven years, most recently out of Firehouse 93 in the San Fernando Valley--a hard-won spot. Stein says she watched Glas become emotionally numb, on edge, and quick to anger in recent months.

"But the symptoms just kept getting worse and worse and worse," Stein said. She and Woods both remembered urging Glas to go to therapy. But she was preoccupied. "And it's unfortunate that she couldn't clearly see that she needed to take care of herself, she wanted to take care of the community first," said Stein.

Glas devoted an increasing amount of time to the lagoon--posting government reports, court transcripts, and other public information on her website when she was off-duty. Stein says she stood with Glas and Glas's boyfriend, Steve Woods, a week ago at Malibu Lagoon to wave signs of support for the restoration project. On that Monday, opponents showed up too.

"As she was going to the bathroom they surrounded her and they were heckling and the state parks had to walk her back to where her boyfriend was," Stein said. "And that's when she broke down crying." A State Parks employee escorted Glas back to Stein and Woods. 

Stein and Woods say Glas was edgy all week after that. Saturday night, Glas argued with Woods while watching television. Woods says he stepped outside to cool down. That's when he heard a gunshot. Stephenie Glas was thirty-seven years old. As of Monday a new sign at the Malibu Lagoon reads "RIP Stephenie," left right where she was standing a week ago.

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story, KPCC said Stephenie Glas was 35 when she died, instead of her correct age, which was 37. We regret the error. 

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