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Concrete Suggestions for Surviving Wildfires

November 02, 2003

The horrendous fires that have destroyed so many homes make us ask why, in fire-prone, relatively treeless Southern California, homes are wood-framed?

We have what seems to be the most logical house for fire protection and energy efficiency in a hilly area. Our concrete-block house, with concrete ceilings and roof, is earth-integrated. One side of the house is in the hillside, and our roof is dirt-covered. We have a lovely view from the window side and have absolutely no concern about fires destroying our structure. We neither heat nor air-condition our comfortable house. In 1979, when we built this house, it cost no more than standard frame construction. Again, we wonder why concrete construction is not the norm and earth-integrated housing is not more popular.

Don and Ann Cottrell

San Diego

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My house was destroyed in the Malibu firestorms of 1993, and I rebuilt a no-wood house. (For details, see www.malibu fireproofhouse.com.)

Wood is an obsolete construction technology and should be banned in fire areas.

Donald May

Malibu

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All of us who live in California should be aware that pampas grass looks spectacular but is a torch waiting to be lit. Your Oct. 28 photo, "Room to Roam," should be a reminder to us to cut back and take out all pampas grass in our yards. If it grows close to any structure, it can be the source of major damage.

The fluffy seeds in the plumes blow in the wind, and now pampas grass is growing up on the hillsides of many local mountains. It is scattered throughout the Santa Monica Mountains. We can't obliterate the native scrub brush, but we can help keep pampas grass from covering our local park mountains.

Jean A. Allen

Pacific Palisades

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As I walked through the eerie smoke and ash from the ferocious conflagration in Southern California, I remembered recent television footage of people in Asia and Australia walking through the same sort of smoke and ash donning face masks, handkerchiefs and carrying umbrellas. It occurred to me that I could probably use all three. Then I realized these firestorms are really a global problem closely related to global climate -- with variables such as temperature, precipitation or lack thereof, winds, humidity. Weather conditions for these firestorms occur around the world. That puts local conditions such as tree densities and beetle infestations in a proper perspective.

Bill McEwen

Yucaipa

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Re "U.S. Rejected Davis on Aid to Clear Trees," Oct. 31:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency took six months to reject Gov. Gray Davis' April 16 request for $430 million to clear dead trees from fire-prone areas of Southern California; 24 hours later, the horrific fires that will result in more than $2 billion in costs and damages commenced, while "For Bush, Raising $3.3 Million Is Just a Day's Work" (Oct. 31). How shameful. How tragic.

Mary Louise Blackstone

Arcadia

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We have parties, parades, honk our horns, etc., for our winning teams. What can we do to thank our firefighters? There is no way to thank them enough, but there must be some way to let them know how very much we admire and appreciate them.

Ginger Tauber

Los Angeles

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