Letter: A Wildfire Waiting to Happen

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We have a beautiful town, more so with the “colorfication” and greening from year’s rains. I am confident that Paradise was similarly spectacular until 2018. Of course, Laguna Beach had a very similar horrific occasion in 1993 and we were extremely lucky that the wind died that afternoon, or we could have experienced a more extreme catastrophe, not minimizing what was.

Some similarities are the congestion/choke points in escape routes, especially from the hillsides. The entire town is covered in arboreal splendor, each of which is a potential fire lantern. The greenery this year, while beautiful now, is set to become combustible in weeks. While it seems the dangers are known by virtue of the crews cutting back brush from the roadsides in Laguna Canyon (CalTrans?) and Park Ave arroyo, these crews have not made the smallest dent beyond a few feet back from the road edges with brush higher than a basketball rim just beyond this limited trimming. Look at density of the brush on the other side of the fences in the canyon greenspace/parkland. I don’t believe fire respects barbed wire boundaries.

Just recall the effort required to down the “small” fires apparently caused by utility lines in Laguna Canyon twice in the last few years with planes, and the rapid growth/spread of the flames in Aliso Creek/below Soka University less than one year ago, and the near catastrophe then but for rapid response and assistance from all neighboring communities. And there were no Santa Ana winds and the prior years’ drought caused absent growth in these instances.

We have the extreme brush, inevitable dry hot months, coming Santa Ana wind events/other extreme weather, doubled by climate change, more people in back country, no one responsible to reduce the brush in the parklands, goat herds with limiting depth protocols, more congestion on our escape routes, traffic backed up on Laguna Canyon and PCH at all hours of all days all year, more and larger trees throughout town than in ‘93, a few more water tanks of what additional value, Caltrans, County Parks and utility companies doing absolutely nothing substantial to reduce the danger and their exposure to the increased fire dangers in the Canyon/parklands, same size fire department, same assisting neighbors, foreboding increased wildfires throughout state, and increasing pressure on limited assisting agencies/resources. The sky is the limit on “et cetera” negativism.

A perfect negative storm brewing? Yelling in a crowded theater? Clearly, we don’t want another Paradise and we cannot depend on the lucky turn of nature when the winds died as in ’93. We are the potential susceptible victims.

Byron Nelson, Laguna Beach

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  1. I live on the watershed boundary of Woods Canyon. Twice a year I cut defensible space on the boundary with a weed-trimmer. To fight fires A DC-10 fire-bomber costs $29,000 per flight hour, a helicopter $8500. My weed-trimmer cost me $130, I have two. It’s your move.


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