Saturday, October 27, 2007

Fires

My parents and I were discussing the fires in California and we also got onto the subjects of there mudslides while we were at it. I mentioned that I felt like the way California had been developed might have a lot to do with both disaster. The following in an article from tree hugger reguarding the same subject.

Steve Erie is director of the Urban Studies and Planning Programming at the University of California San Diego. He is writing a book: Paradise Plundered, explaining how the hills around San Diego got developed.

Erie says that "Developers own most of the city councils. In Poway, in Escondido, what they do is put homeowners in harm's way. They're able to control zoning processes, and they're frequently behind initiatives that say no new taxes, no new fire services. It's insanity." "Politicians here have never met a developer they didn't like. It's a company town and it is largely run by the building industry and local politicians do their bidding."

Meanwhile, the builders don't build any more fire protection than they have to because people aren't willing to pay for it.

Around Los Angeles, researchers have found that about two-thirds of new building in Southern California over the past decade was on land susceptible to wildfires, said Mike Davis, a historian at the University of California at Irvine and author of a social history of Los Angeles.

"It gives you some parameters for understanding the current situation," Davis said. "Another way to look at it is you simply drive out the San Gorgonio Pass, where the winds blow over 50 mph over a hundred days a year and you have new houses standing next to 50-year-old chaparral.

"You might as well be building next to leaking gasoline cans.

Back in San Diego, former fire chief Jeff Bowman is nervous. According to the LA Times, Bowman works as a consultant to fire departments and municipalities. With 16 years as chief in Anaheim and four in San Diego before quitting over staffing and resource issues, he's got strong opinions on San Diego's long, proud culture of skimping on services to keep taxes low.

Although the city of San Diego has a fire department, the county doesn't, leaving many suburban and rural areas to rely on volunteer departments. The city has but one firefighting helicopter and just 975 firefighters for 330 square miles and 1.3 million residents.

Compare that, he says, with San Francisco, which has 1,600 firefighters for 60 square miles and 850,000 people.

"San Diego practices the biggest don't-tax-me campaign I've seen," says Bowman, a proud, lifelong Republican. Fine, he says, don't raise taxes. But reevaluate how money is spent and redistribute it to public safety.

This is just my opinion but wouldn't it make sense to build a home that can't be easily destroyed by fire. Dirt doesn't burn to well, neither does concrete.

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