Saturday, November 24, 2007

Malibu Burns - But Everyone - Including LA - Will Continue To Ignore The Real Reasons!

Looking over the addresses posted of the homes that burned or were damaged in Malibu last night and this morning - I recognize a lot of familiar addresses. Addresses where friends of mine were living when I left Malibu over ten years ago. Addresses near homes I had sold in the past. And, under damaged, is the address of the home I sold Axl Rose in Latigo Canyon many years ago.

And each of these addresses has one thing in common. Massive forests of sumac bushes on the hillside either just below or above them. Sumac bushes that once ignited will create massive fire storms if they have not either been totally removed or trimmed to the ground during fire season. But no government agency requires the removal of this deceptively green but explosively combustible fuel - beyond a far too small setback area.

Additionally no governmental agency in the City of Los Angeles or the County or the City of Malibu (that I know of) has yet to require the removal of existing wood shake roofs in fire areas. Nor do fire codes go far enough in banning wood on the outsides of houses in high risk fire areas. Nor does anyone ever demand that these reforms be implemented in Los Angeles - even when the embers of the latest fire are still smouldering.

Now some people will say the only answer is to not build in fire areas, but that is ignoring that almost ALL of California is a fire area. And the edge of almost any community will usually be in a fire area. So unless the government buys all the hillsides around Los Angeles, people will have the right to build their own home on their own property.

But they should also be required to make their homes far more defensible against fire than the current codes call for - with the full clearance of sumac being mandatory.

But even if that happens, there would still be one problem. Some of the agencies that have been acquiring park lands, have refused to do safe brush clearance where their properties abut housing. They have also refused to do controlled burns and have allowed massive sumac forests to grow by people's homes, endangering everyone who lives in those homes.

And, unfortunately, one of the people who lost his home in this fire is Frank Angel - a lawyer who represents many of those agencies, even though he has chosen to live in one of the highest fire risk areas of Malibu. He and his wife, Meredith are long time residents and valued and highly engaged citizens of Malibu. Their loss of almost everything they own is a tragedy. But perhaps their loss can finally make the parks agencies understand they have a responsibility to be good neighbors with those who live next to them, many of whom built their homes there long before the park agencies acquired their land.

Lastly, this tragedy might also finally convince the parks agencies to do one more thing - install gates and keep their roads locked shut during high fire alerts. And below is the possibly tragic reason why:

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but some reports said it may have broken out at a scenic overlook called Malibu Bowl. Some residents said they heard cars heading down Corral Canyon between 2:30 and 3 a.m. with people yelling and laughing. Several residents complained that the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy has not restricted access to the Malibu Bowl overlook in times of high fire danger.

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