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Burning issues

September 04, 2009

2 firefighters die, 18 homes burn," Aug. 31, and "Living with wildfires," Editorial, Sept. 1, and "Crews gain but threat is still high," Sept. 2

As a La Crescenta family that received the erroneous mandatory evacuation message, we feel that Supervisor Mike Antonovich is being unnecessarily harsh at a time when we should be rallying around our emergency response teams. We can review procedures later; during the crisis is not that time.

Yes, it is jarring to be awakened at 2 a.m. only to find out that someone mistakenly pushed the wrong button. But cut these people some slack. It was the fourth day of a highly stressful, volatile situation, and there have been very few missteps.

Frankly, we view the exercise as a drill and now feel better prepared if we ever have to evacuate for real.

We remain awe-struck at the phenomenal strategic and tactical coordination among all emergency agencies and thank them for their service, including the person who made the mistake.

Patricia Smith

La Crescenta

As noted in the editorial, wildfires in Southern California are as normal as the Mediterranean climate we all enjoy. What we worry so much about is the risk to homes and property that border on national forests.

Property owners now must reduce fire risk to their property through weed clearance and cutting limbs off trees.

The problem is the adjacent chaparral. Because neither state nor local government agencies have the money to provide effective ongoing fire protection to homeowners, why not require new developers as well as all homeowners adjacent to the national forest to provide, say, a 100-foot (or wider) corridor between public and private land?

The present policy of spending millions of dollars attempting to save homes adjacent to rapidly burning chaparral is not only costly but often ineffective.

David Covell

Altadena

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Since my teenage years, I have hiked over most of the Angeles National Forest that now has been burned by the recent fires. In your editorial, you cite years of drought. Get over the drought.

The intensity of the fires is because of the lack of fire and the tremendous accumulation of plant debris in these canyons and mountainsides, some that have not burned in decades. Mother Nature is just clearing out the deadwood.

The mountains will recover; species of plant life we haven't seen for years will sprout, and the soil will be fortified for future growth.

It's a natural process that will be repeated for millenniums.

Michael Hite

Long Beach

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How is it possible within a few short hours to bring together more than 3,000 personnel from dozens of local, state and federal agencies into a cohesive, well-coordinated organization capable of managing an incident the size of the Station fire?

Can you imagine the operations, logistics and planning activity involved? The management system is called ICS - Incident Command System -- and was designed by the agencies involved to accomplish exactly what we are seeing.

This is a great example of how government should and does work for the people.

Terry Haney

West Hills

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What if we didn't fight wildfires?

Maybe people who live within or on the borders of these wild areas would clear their own perimeters of brush and trees instead of depending on this massive taxpayer subsidy to protect their property when fires threaten.

Maybe homeowners and insurers would think more carefully before building or insuring houses there.

Maybe we wouldn't waste untold millions of dollars dumping water and chemicals on fires that can't be stopped and stopping fires that should be allowed to burn. Maybe fires would burn more frequently but would be much less dangerous. Maybe firefighters wouldn't get caught and die needlessly.

Maybe someday our leaders will recognize the futility of our current fire management policy and be bold enough to change this misguided strategy.

Robert Sundstrom

Long Beach

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I am appalled by the media coverage given to the selfish people who ignore mandatory evacuation orders and stay behind, endangering themselves and others.

The brave men and women fighting the fires are frequently called on to divert resources and sometimes endanger themselves to rescue these fools when -- surprise -- they find themselves in peril.

Marilyn Howard

Hidden Hills

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Every idiot who defies a mandatory evacuation order should be heavily fined.

Those who later need to be rescued by the authorities should be made to reimburse the city, county and state for the costs of the rescue. They are putting firefighters' lives at additional risk.

Ray McKown

Los Angeles

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Let's not treat our wildfire problems the way Western medicine treats its patients. We must address the source rather than the symptoms.

Only by severely reducing our carbon emissions, switching to cleaner modes of transportation and clean energy and passing legislation to slow climate change can we tackle the root of the wildfire problem: global warming.

But your editorial just wants to send Californians to bed with an aspirin. You advised readers to learn to live with fires, limit sprawl, create buffers and restore habitat.

This is only part of a larger solution that involves changing the way we live rather than just prescribing rest, hoping things will be better when we wake up.

Heather Pennington

Los Angeles

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