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More Fires in California


Louis
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Yeah, Malibu is on fire again.

 

3,000 miles burned, 35 homes lost, 0% containment last I heard.

 

There are vast areas of unpopulated canyons that they'll just let burn. Firefighters only engage when homes are in danger.

 

It's really spectacular to watch.

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This may sound radical, even cruel, but here goes ---

 

The more fools they for building where nature intends fire to happen. And the authorities are fools for allowing them to build there. I say let them burn, take the insurance money and build in a safer area. So many people are preaching now about cooperating with nature to avert ecological catastrophe. A lot of ecological preachers live in Malibu, the terrain of which is almost uniformly hostile to safe human occupancy. Cooperate with nature. Live in a fire-defensible area. Stop expecting people poorer than yourselves to pay taxes for fire fighting for your vanity houses.

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>This may sound radical, even cruel, but here goes ---

 

Nah, it sounds more grumpy and uninformed than anything.

 

If we're going to evacuate SoCal because of wildfires, why stop there? Let's evacuate the Florida peninsula because of the hurricane threat. And of course, that extends to the entire Gulf coast.

 

Bye Galveston! So long Mobile!

 

Anyone who owns a home in the Mississippi flood plain (a fairly large area) would probably be alarmed by your declaration.

 

If we're evacuating due to Wildfires, the Rocky Mountain states, desert states, and much of the Southeast are out too, and that's just based on fire. Let's cross out the tornado states too.

 

We can all move to Boise, I suppose.

 

There are problems everywhere. This just happens to be our week. Again.

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I think Bigmstr4u raises a valid point. Some people do build in inappropriate places or build the wrong kind of houses in such places. Insurance companies are starting to take notice and those who live in hurricane-prone areas are finding that insurance is becoming much more expensive if available at all.

 

And it is surprising what areas are deemed to be prone to hurricane damage as the New York Times recently pointed out. Even people on Long Island are getting socked on their insurance.

 

As for Malibu and other areas of Southern California, let's face it, it is a desert. Now some desert areas are relatively safe from fire, like most of Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and places like Palm Springs in California. There is no history of wildfires in these areas as far as I am aware.

 

Malibu is another case, where there is an ever-increasing threat of wildfire as climate warming is extending the fire season year-round and as more people build in inappropriate places like the canyons, which are basic wind-tunnels for the Santa Anna winds.

 

The fact that there is vegetation in these areas that provides the fuel for the wildfires makes disasters inevitable. Even if people want to build houses there without insurance and pay for the cost of replacement themselves, the question still remains about the protection they require to safeguard them in the event of fires. I understand at least six firefighters were injured in this last fire. In earliers fires, some have died. Is this an acceptable risk just so some people can indulge their whims to live in fire-prone areas? Something society has to consider.

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I lived in Southern California for many years and used to drive at least twice a week through Malibu, have friends there, and think it is a lovely place. Malibu is not desert, it is coastal chaparral, with dense, low-to-the-ground vegetation which needs to burn periodically to stimulate growth of new plants. New growth needs open ground and some plants have seeds which need fire to generate. It's simply a place which by its nature burns. That's the inland parts. The coast regularly slips into the sea in heavy storms, and rain causes hills to slide down. All of which require expensive public defensive measures that in the end don't work very well, and expensive interventions by public safety teams of various sorts.

 

The tone of the post was intended to be provocative. There are a lot of areas in this country which go beyond challenging as places to live. I think if people want to live in them, fine, but let them do it at their own expense and risk. Places that face ecological challenges that are expensive to overcome and expensive to rescue people from should be in a special category. Insurance companies are begining to recognize this, as pointed out above. The people who live in those places should pay the cost their own rescue. They would soon begin to factor that cost into their calculations when building in such areas.

 

But beyond that, I do think we should identify ecologically fragile areas, and when dangerous or difficult, discourage people from building and living in them. You can't just pick up and move a city like Galveston, but you can discourage the riskier kinds of new development and growth. You can also target areas of special risk and create development policies for them which encourage people to move to more appropriate and safer areas. It would mean a gradual emptying out of some places that are inherently precarious, but in the long run it would be safer for those people and less expensive for the rest of us, who end up paying for the risk takers and subsidizing the less-advantaged who follow in their wake.

 

Right now the news is about fire, but water may be the greater danger. We have all been put on notice about the consequences of global warning, which include a gradual but apparently inevitable rise in sea levels and storms with greater swells. We should identify the affected areas now and begin working to relocate communities while we have the time and it is not yet a crisis. In cases where that is impossible, we can put our engineers and architects to work to design buildings and infrastructure to accomodate the rising waters. I understand that some of the new building in the Ninth Ward in New Orleans is doing just that -- putting new housing on raised platforms, with parking below, for the next great water event.

 

Can we do this comprehensively? I doubt it. The American system is not one that easily plans ahead and makes decisions on the basis of knowledge. It is a system that favors development and its fast buck mentality, leaving the public sector to pay for mistakes when the bill comes due. Nevertheless, we have the opportunity to manage our retreat to safer places or get ready for what is coming with some pain but rationally.

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There are thirty-six million people in California, and most of them live in places that are ripe for some sort of catastrophe. In the north and center of the state there is the possibility of serious floods; in the south there is drought; mudslides occur along the coast;, Crescent City on the north coast has experienced a tsunami; earthquakes occur regularly from San Francisco to the Mexican border, and everyone waits nervously for the continually predicted Big One; and there is fire danger all over the state, not just in the Los Angeles area (remember Lake Tahoe only a few months ago?). The only hazards that we are spared are tornadoes and hurricanes, which is how we justify not picking up and moving to Texas.

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I must state right up front that I am in near total agreement with BgMstr4u on this one. I am 67 year old and was born and have lived almost my entire life in Southern California.

In today’s issue of the Los Angeles Times (Monday, November 26th) Section A page 12 readers see a photograph of a 78 year old woman standing in the kitchen of her partially destroyed home forlornly looking skyward. The caption states that she will be living with her son in Pacific Palisades while her home is repaired. President and Mrs. Reagan lived in Pacific Palisades and Mrs. Reagan still does. Pacific Palisades like Malibu is one of the wealthiest suburbs of Los Angeles. On page 13 readers see a photograph of a distraught woman being hugged by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. This time the caption informs readers that the woman lost here THREE-STORY home

Gentlemen when we talk about Malibu we are NOT talking about million dollar homes. We are talking about MULTI-MILLION dollar homes, compounds and estates. What I refuse to accept is that the mega-wealthy who live in Malibu have NO responsibility to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves. They insist on building huge homes with spectacular ocean and mountain views along narrow dirt roads and then expect and demand that they be protected at “public expense” from the inevitable fires and mud slides that are endemic to the area. In the fire, earlier this month, in Rancho Santa Fe a number of homes were saved because the owners had contracted with private firms to provide fire resistant foam in case of need. As far as I’m concerned this type of private protection should be a requirement for homes that people insist in building in areas like Rancho Santa Fe and Malibu.

When I was in college over forty years ago I had a fantastic geology professor. One of his pet peeves was that people who build homes in flood plains have the audacity to complain when their homes are flooded. He used to say, with great passion, “they are called flood plains for a reason god damnit”.

Call me a Scrooge or a curmudgeon, if you will, BUT I, for one, am sick and tired of being taxed to protect the Malibu mansions of Hollywood’s glitterati. And please don’t tell me that there are also “little people” who live in Malibu because it just “ain’t" so.

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As a second generation native Californian, I have a few thoughts as well:

 

1) Some of these posts above re: "people shouldn't be allowed to build..." make it sound like we're still hiking up into the hills and homesteading! If an individual or a developer wants to build, there is a government review process of the entire project, via at the very least the city, often the county, and in many times even the State of California (Coastal Commission). So these government agencies that approve all the development are completely aware of the risky areas they are letting homes being built in - AND these agencies are aware of and responsible for the infrastructure (water, fire/police, flood control) in the areas. There is a process of accessible government controls (planning commission meetings, hearings, city council meetings) - and maybe if these issues are a big problem we should attack it that way - rather than accuse those who can afford to build in the area of being capricious? That said - I'm extremely anti-big-government, and often joke with friends that as a small business owner it's the city governments that make my life miserable! :)

 

2) It is the height of folly to single out Southern California homeowners for their decisions to live in high risk areas. Many, many examples can be found of entire cities in high risk areas, some built beneath sea level (in hurricane zones!), cities on flood plains, cities built next to man made river levees, mountain forest fire areas, or most of the unprotected southern eastern seaboard. Let's be open minded on this one?

 

3) OK, here's the one that will get me in trouble :) If the risk is too great leave! WHY do so many Americans migrate to California with the horrific natural disasters at every turn. Fires, earthquakes, floods, mud slides, dangerous seacoasts, oh my - what a nightmare! Many of the home developments built over the last 25-40 years obviously are there to handle the *huge* influx of people into California. Some of these will spill over into riskier areas as the demand exceeds the supply. Again speaking as a small businessman - I *love* our economy here (although NOT our real estate market at the moment!!) and when I'm stuck in traffic I look around and tell myself "they are all potential customers...", lol! But seriously, maybe a couple million of you should pack up and leave? :)

 

4) "I don't like being taxed for....", grow up and understand taxation in general. Why don't you bitch about all the school taxes you pay when you don't have children - that's a popular one. If you don't like it, move to a state with no state income tax, save you 8-10% over California's rates! See if you like it as well as California and the lifestyle you probably enjoy here.

 

This is totally *not* the kind of post I usually make...but I felt I wanted to comment. I'm sure my post can be picked apart sentence by sentence, but please consider the sum of the parts and appreciate a different point of view. Thanks!

 

Tom

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SoCal makes an excellent point regarding the complicity of local governments in the building boom in dangerous fire areas. In the earlier fires in Los Angeles and San Diego Counties the local governments, frequently board of supervisors, had zoned areas for tract housing that had not been so zoned previously. One MUST keep in mind that many board of supervisor and city council members are bought and paid for #### of the land development and housing industries. Representatives of these two industries present themselves at meeting of board of supervisors and city councils requesting zoning changes and it is a done deal.

 

Malibu and Rancho Santa Fe are VERY different. These two areas DO NOT have large tract home developments. They have million dollar lots on which multi-million dollar homes are built by the very wealthy. In Malibu many of those wealthy are also well know celebrities. Barbara Streisand lives in Malibu and I believe a member of the rock band Sting just lost his home in the current fire. It is interesting to note that not only are many of our local official #### to the development and housing industries they are star struck as well. Just let the representative of a well know celebrity appear at a zoning commission, board of supervisor, or city council meeting requesting permission to build where others have been refused in the past and see how fast they are accommodated. About ten years ago the resident of Malibu incorporated to form a city because these “poor souls” didn’t feel it was fair that they should be assessed to update their obsolete sewer system which was suffering from frequent overflows which polluted local beaches. Upon incorporating the new city determined that it would be “too expensive” to maintain their own fire services so they contracted with the very county from which they had ceded to provide those services. Thus the tax payers of ALL of Los Angeles County must underwrite the extensive fire services that Malibu requires. Now why you ask does the county agree to provide these services when the fee paid frequently do not cover the cost of services provided? The answer is simple money and celebrity name clout.

 

Regarding the issue of not wanting to pay taxes for schools when I have no children let me say the following. That argument is old and it is lame. Though I do not have children in school the day will likely come when I require the services of an individual who was educated in that system for which I am currently paying. Those taxes I am more than willing to do. What I resent if paying taxes through the nose to provide services to people who are fully capable of taking care of themselves and from which I receive absolutely NOTHING in return.

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Malibu is not desert,

>it is coastal chaparral, with dense, low-to-the-ground

>vegetation which needs to burn periodically to stimulate

>growth of new plants.

 

"Coastal chaparral", what the heck does that mean! Coastal is obvious but the coast happens to be on an ocean with saltwater so no help there. Chaparral is underbrush, which can grow in many places, including on deserts (which do get some rainfall and support some vegetation).

 

Just tell me where Malibu gets its water from. Where does Los Angeles get its water from. The answer is some place that's not a desert like they are!

 

It never fails to amaze me how people living in La La Land are truly La La themselves.

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261 California Coastal Chaparral Forest Shrub Province

 

Vegetation.--Plant communities are well marked in this province. Several tree species are endemic to the region, including the Monterey cypress, Torrey pine, Monterey pine, and Bishop pine. The coastal plains and larger valleys have sagebrush and grassland communities. A riparian forest containing many broadleaf species grows along streams. On the hills and lower mountains, there is sclerophyll forest consisting of low trees with small, leathery leaves that can withstand the lack of summer precipitation. Live oak or white oak woodland is found here. On steep hill and mountain slopes too dry to support oak woodland or oak forest, much of the vegetation is scrub or "dwarf forest" know as chaparral, which varies in composition with elevation and exposure. It consists of chamise and various manzanitas that are adapted to periodic occurrence of fire. Exposed coastal areas support desertlike shrub communities called coastal scrub, dominated by coyote bush, California sagebrush, and bush lupine. Toward southern California, sages become abundant within coastal scrub communities.

 

Most of the coastal plains and interior valleys have been converted to urban use or irrigated agriculture. Citrus, grapes, avacados, nuts (such as almonds and walnuts), and deciduous fruits are grown extensively. Irrigated alluvial soils are also highly productive of vegetable crops. Bluegum eucalyptus and other species imported from Australia are abundant along roadsides and much of the coastline as well as farther inland.

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Guest zipperzone

>2) It is the height of folly to single out Southern

>California homeowners for their decisions to live in high risk

>areas. Many, many examples can be found of entire cities in

>high risk areas, some built beneath sea level (in hurricane

>zones!), cities on flood plains, cities built next to man made

>river levees, mountain forest fire areas, or most of the

>unprotected southern eastern seaboard. Let's be open minded on

>this one?

 

While the above may very well be true - it's Malibu that is burning to the ground right now so that is why it is being "singled out"

 

 

>If you don't like it, move to a state with no state

>income tax, save you 8-10% over California's rates! See if you

>like it as well as California and the lifestyle you probably

>enjoy here.

 

It is very typical of Cal - eee - fornia residents (as your great Governor would say) to think that their state has the best lifestyle. Wrong! There are many areas of the US where although the lifestyle may be diffrent it is equally enjoyable. Not everyone is addicted to bikinis and skin cancer.

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