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Fire Destroys Southland Homes

December 19, 1988

When toting up the costs of Southern California's wind-driven fires, there are things worth considering which offer hope of reducing the repetitive risks to life, peace of mind, property, and the tax burden. One is an old idea, tried but doomed in the past by resistance of the housing industry. The others are new and very very radical but of certain effectiveness.

It's time for state, county and city governments to face reality and outlaw roofs paved with fire tinder. Consumers, public safety agencies, and the insurance industry must unite in an earnest campaign of encouraging our legislators and other elected leaders to turn their ears from the pleadings and pressures of contractors and suppliers and heed common sense. The time has come for an initiative to outlaw wood shingle roofs.

The other suggestions will provoke responses of "incredible," "economically unfeasible," "technically impossible," etc. from the electrical power distribution industry. Perhaps the initiative approach is needed here.

It is proposed that a goal be set by public agencies for electrical power companies to redesign and correct the deficiencies of present electrical distribution networks running through the Southern California foothills so that fires will not be set by power lines downed by natural phenomena such as fall's high winds.

Short-sensing facilities capable of fast-acting isolation would prevent the showers of sparks that ignite the tinder-dry vegetation. The technology is in use and can be adapted.

Another sensible idea would be to reroute all but the most essential circuits around, not through, the wooded areas.

Still another--redesign the lines themselves so that the likelihood of contact between adjacent conductors is diminished. We protect gas, oil, water, and other perishables from the elements in the foothills, why can't we view electricity the same way?

The expense of these innovations is acknowledged, but in an age where no cost is too high to protect us from our enemies from without, surely investments up front that will protect us from ourselves and pay such high dividends by trimming the fortunes spent to offset the losses of homes, public facilities, sources of income, and their restoration, are costs the public can be taught to accept.



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