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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

California Fire Ecology

November 08, 2003

The connection between two seemingly unrelated articles in the Nov. 4 paper is striking. "Fires Bring Hazard of Landslides" is a reminder to us all to look carefully at our surroundings and become proactive in minimizing accelerated erosion and the resulting sedimentation that will surely occur during the upcoming rainy season. "Flood Kills 80 in Indonesia" tells of an entirely avoidable disaster caused by illegal logging, and the total number killed may eventually top 200 people.

There are many proven methods for controlling erosion and sedimentation. Here's hoping there is no wildfire-induced, landslide-related loss of life in Southern California this winter.

Daniel Waldman

Santa Barbara

*

I'm surprised that The Times would give the last word regarding the diversion of Proposition 172 funds to Gary R. Albin (letter, Nov. 4). Your story "Little of Tax Hike Goes to Fight Fires" (Nov. 1) was about the diversion of funds at the county level, not in Sacramento, as Albin indicated. Blaming everything on the state government is in style this fall, but in this case it's unwarranted and unfair.

John D. Repka

Laguna Beach

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Although closer to the mark than most, Ray Ring ("Fire Comes With the Territory," Commentary, Nov. 3) also jumps on the "prescribed burns" bandwagon as a solution to our wildfire ills. Will somebody please sit down and think this through? Ignore (for now) the take-a-number line in our courts on behalf of the environmentalists and the local residents not wanting their view denuded. Pay more attention to the facts that our indigenous flora requires decades to fully regrow and that we are already witnessing an increase in fire frequency. What used to occur naturally every 30 years is already occurring about every 12. Prescribed burns would reduce that to, say, every four years. This would be great for foreign invaders, which regrow quickly and starve out competition, but catastrophic for chaparral. And non-indigenous vegetation is not designed to thrive on wildfires, hold up our soft hillsides or shelter our native wildlife. Prescribed burns really could make things a whole lot worse.

Eric Hainline

Santa Ana

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Re "Santa Ana River: Let It Flow, or Let It Grow?" Nov. 3: Now that the wildfires, a tragic consequence of human interference in California's ecology, are winding down, we are subjected to quotes like, "The birds? Well let me ask you, where were the birds before all this? Let them fly back to where they came from."

Where indeed were the birds before all of this? They were here in California's extensive wetlands (now 98% gone) for millions of years before humans crossed the Bering Land Strait on foot, rode horses up from Spanish Colonial Mexico or stepped off the Santa Fe Railroad. I could go on, but I feel the sudden urge to grab my binoculars and go birding.

Thomas Geza Miko

Claremont

*

Though personally I am a fan of steel-stud houses, these and brick houses are just a little better than wood when it comes to wildfire protection, as it is the general contents inside of the structure that promote a fire's intensity. In the case of a very hot wildfire, the shell wouldn't stave off enough heat to prevent the interior contents from flashing.

There are several engineering considerations to deal with also, but for the most part, any brick or steel house structure affected by any sort of fire would have to be torn down and replaced.

The primary advantages of steel-stud housing are the protection against termites and warping wall members, and concrete or brick houses offer better insulation against outside temperature extremes. Additionally, both houses hold up to high-velocity winds better.

Charlie Michael

North Las Vegas

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I built a house within walking distance of the national forest east of drought-hit Albuquerque, N.M., last year. After consultation with a firefighter friend, I put in a metal pitched roof, concrete deck and pillars, stucco exterior, water spigots on all sides of the house and cleared a defensible space. The metal roof with a steep pitch means snow and fire embers slide off. The added $5,000 total cost for a 2,900-square-foot house gives me fire peace of mind, and I don't have to worry about roof repairs for 25 years. The concrete decks were cheaper than wood.

Rita Getty

Tijeras, N.M.

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