I have lived in the Top of the World area for 35 years. Evacuating my home during the devastating 1993 fire was one of the most traumatic events of my life. That event left me psychologically scared and hyper-aware of the possibility of something like that happening again. The severe drought conditions this year and recent fires in San Diego County have heightened my anxiety.
To add to my deep concerns is evidence that folks are smoking in and around the Carolyn Wood water tank at the end of Alta Laguna Boulevard, a space designated as a no smoking area. I hike three days a week on the West Ridge Trail. Each and every time, I pick up at least 10 to 15 cigarette butts strewn about the ground. I even find butts a couple of miles out on the trail. Alarm and anger understate my reaction; fear and disgust need to be added to that mix.
Which leads me to a question: Is the primary mission of the city of Laguna Beach, and its fire and police departments, to suppress fires or prevent them from happening?
From my observations, it appears to be more the former. Recently, the city posted placards announcing a $1,000 fine for smoking in the wilderness areas. These flimsy cardboard signs were mounted on wooden stakes and haphazardly pounded into the ground. Within days, most of these signs were no longer in evidence nor were they replaced. Consequently, I suspect not one citation has been issued.
But signs alone will not deter smokers. I strongly urge a more pro-active stance. During the high fire danger season, especially when Red Flag conditions have been declared, fire and law enforcement personnel should be in plain sight to serve as a visual deterrent. And the officers should not be reticent to issue a citation when an offender is observed smoking in a restricted area. A warning will not send a strong enough message. This is not a time to promote Laguna’s visitor-friendly reputation.
Better Laguna be known as tough on smokers who do not obey the law. Having the town nearly burn down again because of a passive response to this very real threat is simply irresponsible and indefensible.
Step up and take aggressive action now.
Jerry King, Laguna Beach