Here we go again. Sound-off letters by Peter Weisbrod in last week’s Indy and a column by JJ Gasparotti a week earlier call for massive brush clearance around Laguna to reduce fire risk. This prescription is outdated and wrongheaded.
The highest risk for a house to catch on fire is an overhanging tree. (See http://www.californiachaparral.com). Read carefully, the tree is not the problem. It is the failure of homeowners to clear dead leaves and debris off their roofs. The most frequent cause of a house catching fire is flying embers. They get stuck in wooden decks, eaves and debris. They can blow in from far away. Trees surrounding your home can actually protect it from flying embers! See the famous photograph from the Scripps Ranch fire where a whole street of houses burned to the ground but adjacent eucalyptus groves remained untouched (https://i.pinimg.com/originals/88/ac/47/88ac47c89d94a469793d6f98c0b8e295.jpg).
So, forget the myth of the exploding eucalyptus tree. That is newspaper sensationalism. Forget the myth that clearing scrub from around your home will protect it from fire. The wind can carry embers from miles away. And we can’t control the weather.
We all know that overhead electrical wires start many fires, so undergrounding makes sense. If you want to reduce the chance of your house catching fire, concentrate on making it less vulnerable. Clearing our beautiful hillsides with goats and slash crews will not save Laguna from fire. It will destroy natural habitat, encourage the growth of flammable invasive plants and diminish the quality of our lives.
Chris Reed, Laguna Beach