Letter: Laguna Wildfire Main Culprits


Laguna Beach Independent columnist and Liberate Laguna PAC major donor Michael Ray once again has trouble with the truth. After the 1993 wildfire there was a contentious blame game, but the conclusion was that water pressure, and lack of aerial firefighting capability were the main culprits. Yet now Ray blames former Councilmember Ann Christoph and Village Laguna. Michael Ray wrote “our fire department ran out of fire water”. As proof he quotes a couple of1999 letters-to-the-editor from Laguna residents.

However, on Nov. 14, 1993 the Los Angeles Times reported in “Water Pressure Burned Laguna” “Distribution problems – and not low supply – hindered fight, records show. Millions of gallons went unused.” “The main culprits: dwindling water pressure, inadequate pipeline connections and insufficient pumping capacity.” The Times noted that at 7:30 p.m., the Alta Laguna reservoir had a water level of 137,000 gallons.
And the article goes on to say, “Chip Prather, assistant director of fire services for the Orange County Fire Department, confirmed that the problem was never a shortage of water, but rather the lack of water pressure, and a system that was not designed with a fire of this magnitude in mind. ‘The system there is designed for a house fire-one or two maybe,’ Prather said.  ‘I never heard that anyone ran out of water,’ he said. ‘I heard that there were places where they couldn’t get water . . .[because] they had no pressure. What we got there was a water pressure problem.”

Orange County Register reported on Dec. 3, 1993 “Air snafu hampered firefight” “Confusion and red tape held up air tanker support at the Laguna Beach blaze, records show.” “By the time the first air tankers rumbled over Laguna at 1:40 p.m., the fire was almost 2 hours old.”
In the Coastline Pilot November 1993 “They Do Not Claim That Extra Water Would Have Saved Houses” in which Laguna Beach County Water District Engineer Jim Nestor was quoted as saying “It’s unclear as to how the three million gallons [of proposed additional storage] would have helped us.” The article noted “Some of the low pressure that firefighters experienced in Mystic Hills was a function of demand elsewhere in the system as residents turned on thousands of hoses to wet down their roofs and yards.”
Michael Ray is a regular columnist for the Indy and the editor has a responsibility to ensure what is printed is factual and true. Please do your due diligence.

Gene Felder, Laguna Beach

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  1. Before Michael Ray is able to debate with anyone he needs to understand that believing or pretentending to believe something does not necessarily make it true. The mentor of Ray’s children (by Ray’s own statement), Peter Blake, suffers from, apparently, the same problem. Blake has made statements that parking will not be an issue because (a) many people will use Uber to go to restaurants and bars or (b) self driving cars will solve our parking problem. The 3-2 city, in my view, used these same beliefs to reduce parking requirements for bars and restaurants by 333% in the newly approved Downtown Specific Plan and and to plan to eliminate 72 prime downtown parking spaces. While at the same time Blake along with the City manager and city staff was secretly negotiating what, in my view, is one of if not the biggest giveaway in the history of Laguna Beach. These negotiations with the Presbyterian Church resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the city to build a 133 space parking structure on Church property. The Church will immediately get 41 parking spaces and a share of the gross revenue from the remaining 92=spaces starting at 2% and increasing to 28% during the last twenty years of the 53 year lease. The city is responsible for all the costs as well as management, permitting, construction and maintenance of the entire structure. Of course at the end of the lease period the church will own the parking structure with an estimated value of $20 million dollars minimum. The city already owns land such as the Lumberyard parking lot, where a parking structure could be built. If we need a parking structure why not build on city owned property. The kindest description,in my view, of these negotiations are naïveté of the city negotiators and the 3-2 city council that voted to proceed with on this puzzling project.

    If Ray wants to debate why not give us his views on his protégé’s “cunning and skilful” negotiations on behalf of the voters. I am very curious on his opinion as there has been a deafening silence his Liberate Laguna/Forward crowd.

  2. Hey Gene,

    YOUR facts are wrong, but let’s not US argue. Instead, someone from Village Laguna should DEBATE someone from Laguna Forward. Please.

    Or are you still hiding?


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