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Fire Boats for Brush Fires

November 10, 1985

Being a native Southern Californian and having lived in Malibu for 10 years now, I've witnessed many a Santa Ana-whipped brush fire devastate major portions of our state.

Each area seems to have its own particular difficulty factor for containing such conflagrations.

Here in Malibu it's the inaccessible terrain and insufficient water table or water pressure to sustain an effective holding pattern against the fires' onslaught to the sea.

Water-dropping tanker planes and copters are only slightly effective. Their operations are often hampered by wind and (low) visibility. At night, when the winds are down and fire lines can be stabilized, this equipment is often not used, for what reason I can't fathom. So overall this strategy for fighting fires in Southern California's Coastal Santa Monica Mountains is only marginally effective except under optimum conditions.

So what's the solution?

I've suggested to various public officials (county fire departments, elected officials, or their staff) that they use fire boats from L.A.-Long Beach Harbor or Port Hueneme. These boats are capable of pumping thousands of gallons of water at thousands of pounds pressure.

As most of the population and dwellings in this area are within a mile or two of the coastline it would seem it would be possible to lay hoses for a mile or two inland and for a boat or boats to pump a tremendous and unlimited amount of water that mile or two inland to hot spots to stop the fire cold.

So far, I've gotten a lot of weak reasons (as to) why it wouldn't work. None have convinced me that it's not a more realistic approach to containment than what is now practiced. At least it's better than letting these fires run amok.



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