Commentary: Don't Give Fires Fuel

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, October 7, 2005

Cross your fingers. The fire season is not over. But so far this year, we are not seeing the blackened skeletons of hundreds of homes, with distraught owners picking through charred debris in search of family treasures.

Three recent southern California fires burned more than 26,000 acres very near bedroom communities, but only three homes were lost. Fire officials credit a fast, well coordinated response. They also credit new fire-safe building standards and strict enforcement of regulations. To be fair, luck also played a role. Fire fighters know that cool moist air can do more to douse a wild fire than all their efforts.

Homeowners in high risk areas, where houses abut wild lands, are required to remove brush within 200 feet of all structures. So when the fires whipped by fierce Santa Ana winds broke out last week, there was not only less fuel to burn, but room for firefighters to maneuver -  and places to move in heavy equipment to cut fire breaks that saved entire neighborhoods.

So far this year, property losses have been minimal and no one has died. But fire season is not over. More winds and hotter temperatures are forecast. So make sure those clear spaces are maintained, just in case.


Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.