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Wake Up to Fire Dangers -- They're Here With Us to Stay

October 30, 2003

Re "On Foot or in Cars, Victims Had No Escape," Oct. 27:

As a resident of Los Alamos, N.M., where wildfire destroyed much of our town in 2000, I am shocked to read of Southern Californians awakening, apparently with little or no warning, to flames bearing down on their homes. Some could not escape. But our town, in the 1990s, partly because of its nuclear weapons laboratory and hazardous materials, invested in a community-alert system with the capability to simultaneously call every phone in town or in any portion of town and deliver an emergency message -- exactly what was done when the 2000 Cerro Grande fire necessitated evacuations.

It is incomprehensible that heavily populated, fire-prone areas of Los Angeles and San Diego do not have a similar system, which costs us about 4 cents a month on our phone bills for immeasurable peace of mind.

Kathleene Parker

Los Alamos, N.M.

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Re "Newhall Project Gets OK to Build," Oct. 28: There is a certain irony, perhaps peculiar to our part of the world, that a Kern County judge is allowing the Newhall Ranch project to go ahead with the building of over 20,000 homes in chaparral-covered foothills within sight of smoke plumes from the Piru brush fire. Never mind the environmental concerns; the resource most endangered in Southern California is common sense.

Jeff Robbins

Los Angeles

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The weapons of mass destruction have been found. They are poor land-use planning, budget cuts, arsonists and one foolish hunter.

Gary W. Thomas

San Diego

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State officials have estimated that damages from the current fires will exceed $2 billion (Oct. 29). Considering the costs of previous fires in recent years, there must have been several billion dollars expended in mostly ineffective (despite the heroism of the firefighters) firefighting efforts.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department has paid approximately $2 million per year for the lease of two Bombardier Super Scooper aircraft. A billion dollars would pay for hundreds of water bombers of this kind, or other aircraft. They should be equipped with modern radar and navigational systems to make them capable of nighttime operation. Sophisticated military weapons control systems would be used to detect hot spots and direct the aircraft.

Certainly, several hundred large-capacity water bombers appropriately deployed could have nipped most of these fires in the bud. What are we waiting for?

Joseph Conley

La Canada

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Why do people flick burning ashes off their cigarettes outside their windows while driving and then toss the still-lighted butts out too -- all this while there are over a dozen fires demolishing entire neighborhoods in Southern California?

What could they be thinking? Do they know that the hot ash from their cigarettes could light a little piece of paper or a dry leaf and ignite the whole community?

Besides littering, couldn't it potentially be arson?

Paula Davis

Venice

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