Measuring Candidates on Fire Safety, Housing the Homeless

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When evaluating the candidates for the council election this fall we need to pay particular attention to their positions on preventing a fire like the one that burned about 350 homes in Laguna Beach in 1993. That was a real disaster and we seem to be on a path to repeat it.

The fire was started in Laguna Canyon on a day of Santa Ana winds and it burned rapidly into town, changing the town and the lives of many of us forever.  Those of us who were here then will never forget that day.

Today we seem to be creating a situation which is even more likely to bring a similar fire to our town. I am speaking of our Alternative Sleeping Location for homeless people on Laguna Canyon Road near the Dog Park.  They presently accommodate 45 persons nightly and turn away many others due to lack of space. Also there is now a proposal to add additional permanent housing for homeless at the same location. We should be proud to help those less fortunate, but we should not risk burning the town again to do so.

The homeless shelter needs to be in a different location.  Persons turned away from the shelter each night often just find a place nearby to camp out. And it seems the large majority of the homeless smoke or chain smoke cigarettes. Those camping sometimes start fires to keep warm. Many homeless walk up and down the canyon road at all hours going to and from town. Cigarette butts can be found all over. Recently I observed a group of eight homeless just hanging out and talking.  Seven of the eight were smoking.  This is the “norm”.

The next time you observe a person who appears homeless, look to see if that person is smoking. Laguna is now just a fire waiting to happen.

Before we vote, each candidate running for city council should be evaluated on their commitment to preventing disastrous fires along with their position for the location of homeless housing.

Ralph Haun, Laguna Beach

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