Letter: Wildfire Fuel Modification Zones

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The City’s long-established Fuel Modification Guidelines indicate the urban fringe areas in globally endangered habitats with Southern Maritime Chaparral and other native plants will be thinned and managed by hand crews. Routine irrigation for Zones A and B per guidelines can maintain safe plant hydration and immediate water for wildfire prevention and suppression.

The Fire Department recognizes the need for on-site water and Laguna Beach has access to high-purity, recycled water for a smart, perimeter wildfire water supply installed as surface mounted to avoid significant trenching cost.

Recently, Southern California Edison paid for leasing a helicopter at $2.2 million per year and Laguna Beach has appropriated $1.5 million for refilling water tanks. Since wildfire season is an annual event, over 10 years the ratepayers will spend $22 million on helicopter leases to deliver very small amounts of water in an actual wildfire event. A perimeter irrigated system can pre-saturate threatened areas and operate to supply unlimited, large volumes of new water to assist firefighters in wildfire suppression.

Water puts out fire and as one retired LBFD firefighter said, “Without water a firefighter is just a spectator.”

Clear-cutting native vegetation on steep hillsides will promote erosion and landslides. Denuded areas dramatically raise the surrounding urban heat sink by 20 degrees and summer heat will scorch remaining plants to increase wildfire threats. The exposed soil mantle will be mobilized during storms to cover fragile tide pools and shellfish habitats in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) with silt.

Sound biological science must guide us rather than fear of nature. The City’s adopted Climate Protection Plan places a high value on the Greenbelt as an effective carbon sequestration measure. Steep hillsides with properly irrigated vegetation shade the earth and adds to moisture retention among remaining plants.

Please respect decades of planning to implement the City’s Fuel Mod Guidelines in a timely manner to prepare for the next and subsequent wildfire seasons.

Mike Beanan, South Laguna

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