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Refuting Urban Legends

Editor,

 This is in response to Ganka Brown’s May 27 letter regarding Eucalyptus trees.

 I am a landscape architect who served on the Orange County Fuel Modification Task Force, and would like to clarify some incorrect statements in Ms. Brown’s letter.

 Eucalyptus is sold as firewood, but so is oak wood. Oak trees are considered among the most fire resistant of all species. The reason any firewood burns is because it is dead and dry. A person could hold a blowtorch to the Eucalyptus trees in downtown Laguna and they would not ignite, because they are alive and green.

 Fire ecologist Richard Halsey gave a public lecture a couple of years ago in Laguna on fire safety. He was asked:  “are Eucalyptus trees any more fire prone than other species?” His answer, “No.” The only drawback to Eucalyptus or any other species is dead branches or leaves that are left at the base of the tree and provide kindling.  Well-maintained Eucalyptus trees are fine.

 This was proved in the 1993 Laguna firestorm when Eucalyptus trees on the edges of the fire (such as those at Thurston School, Woodland Drive and North Laguna) had singed leaves but did not ignite.

 Bob Borthwick, Laguna Beach

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