Preventing future fires

Larry Harrell lhfotoware at
Fri Jan 9 00:59:06 EST 2004

lifeform1 at (Thomas Lee Elifritz) wrote in message news:<29de1a66.0401071034.629fdc56 at>...
> January 7, 2004
> lhfotoware at (Larry Harrell) wrote in message :
> > Larry,   flammable home building material producer.
> Thomas Lee Elifritz

Oh, very clever, Tommy. I'll bet your mother is VERY proud. I'd say
that most people want to use beautiful wood products built into their
dream homes. Besides, we have to do SOMETHING with all the excess
trees clogging our overstocked forests.

If you don't believe me, listen to this firefighter's opinion:

Thursday, January 8, 2004  The Daily Press

COMMENTARY: Not out of the woods yet

Mountain residents in San Bernardino County dodged a bullet. A bullet
that could have taken the life off of, if not out of, these mountains.

The California fire siege of 2003 is now recognized as the largest
fire in California history with more than 3,000 homes lost to flames
and deadly mudslides now a part of the disastrous aftermath. Part of
the San Bernardino National Forest burned, and chaparral and coastal
sage sent walls of flame across the foothills.

With the fires out, two important facts remain. First, the fire
affected fewer than five percent of the dead trees that cover these
mountains. With millions of dead trees still standing and more dying
every day, there is a tremendous fire threat here. We need help as
much now as we did before.

Second, as much as advanced planning by our Mountain Area Safety Task
Force, Fire Safe Councils, and citizens helped during the siege,
nothing less than heroic firefighting kept this fire away from the
dead trees. Ten times more homes would have been lost had this fire
burned into the dead forest.

The San Bernardino are the most populated forests in the country, home
to more than 50,000 people and $8 billion of assessed real estate
value. There are houses and businesses on roughly 49,000 parcels
adjacent to national forestland. Private landowners, clearly
vulnerable, should receive as much funding for fire hazard mitigation
and dead tree removal as possible.

We must protect communities and be wise with the dollars we spend
doing it. I encourage the Forest Service to work with local fire
jurisdictions to establish fuel treatments and fire protection zones
as quickly as possible. Fuel breaks will not fireproof a community or
restore a forest, but they can provide a degree of protection that
doesn't exist today.

Immediate funding should be made available to local agencies and our
Fire Safe Councils, citizen-led organizations that have made terrific
progress in every community on the mountain. Their tireless efforts to
motivate, educate and organize have paid great dividends - their town
hall meetings were definitely instrumental in the Sheriff's Office
safely evacuating more than 50,000 people off the mountain in only a
few days. If it wasn't the largest evacuation in state history, it was
certainly the most calm and polite.

We must also reevaluate "tree removal" itself. It is not enough to
fell the tree; infrastructure must be developed to utilize the wood.
Felled trees should be considered raw materials, not waste, and "tree
removal" should include the generation of wood products.

Valuable resources are being wasted now. Wood going to incinerators or
the county landfill now exceeds 800 tons a day from private lands
alone. When utility Southern California Edison has their tree removal
operation in full swing, the waste will top 1,500 tons every day.

The county has taken actions to finance initial wood utilization
projects. There is no commercial infrastructure remaining in the
region, yet the solutions we consider must include the private sector
and beneficial uses for the wood regardless of its origin.

In the meantime, we have the continued threat of fire and its

Following the Mountain Area Safety Task Force (MAST) model, the County
Office of Emergency Services has initiated an action plan in
cooperation with our Flood Control Districts to mitigate the effects
of debris and flood runoff from burned areas. Debris and mudflows
threaten property and the drinking water for millions of Southern

There are constant meetings with arborists, registered professional
foresters, Fire Safe Councils, and the Resource Conservation Service
to educate and initiate action toward effective erosion control and
healthy reforestation. MAST is distributing information on erosion
control and the proper planting and replanting of fire resistant,
drought tolerant plants.

But until the dead trees are gone and the forest is restored, we won't
be out of the woods. We're still relying on heroic efforts to save our
forest, and our homes.

I also want to encourage citizens and policymakers to align forest
management and fire hazard mitigation efforts. Spend more money to
prevent fires and we'll spend less fighting them.

Peter Brierty is Fire Marshal for San Bernardino County. He testified
before the U.S. House Resources Committee in early December.

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