by David DeMullé
In the past month, we’ve had four major brush fires, and the fire season has just started in Southern California. I had just gotten over the smoke and soot of the Calabasas fire when we had another fire in the Big Tujunga Canyon on Monday and Hansen Dam on Tuesday.
All of the fires were caused by humans. Two of them were from people hitting a power pole with their respective trucks on the Old Topanga Road, and the Alpine Way fire was caused by ille
gal fireworks. These wildfires scorched the landscapes of Los Angeles areas and were either caused unintentionally or by arson.
Last week started with a blaze on the Old Fire Road in Calabasas. During the fire, the mountains stood out as a dark silhouette against a night-time sky that was lit by orange flames. Peoples’ pets were going frantic from the impending fire and the ever-present soot and embers. People were wetting their roofs and plants with pathetically small water hoses that did no more than create steam. Firefighters finally got a handle on that blaze, but had little time to rest. On Monday, another fire began raging off the side of the Big Tujunga Canyon at Alpine Way, endangering wildlife and homes in the Alpine Village area. As bad as these fires were, with stronger winds they could have easily been worse.
Southern California is in an historic drought that, in terms of water supply, is not yet felt because of its network of groundwater and reservoir — which is the mainstay of Sunland-Tujunga. I don’t understand why the city has not put drought measures into operation.
Wake up, people! We are in serious trouble and too few seem aware of it. To the north, the Sierra Nevada snowpack is the smallest it has been since 1988. The onset of the state’s last major drought. The landscape throughout the state is, or will soon be, unusually dry.
The fire danger is severe. Gov. Jerry Brown has made the effort to appear to be prepared, issuing an executive order to mobilize more firefighters and dispatch inmate crews when necessary. In many respects; however all we can do is wait. Fire is partly a function of nature and partly a function of human behavior — the carelessness of campers and the deviousness of arsonists. It is also partly a function of land management practices, particularly in the foothills region. We’re looking at a long, hot and possibly dangerous summer.
In the foothills, the best line of defense isn’t some huge plane whose belly is filled with fire retardant but the weed-wacker and rake. Creating a 100-foot buffer zone around any structure by removing dried branches and debris can make the difference between losing or saving a home. Our firefighters can’t be everywhere.
Brushfires are a natural process that, with rare exceptions, can’t be allowed to happen because too many roads, structures and recreational zones are in the way. We have built homes in places that were meant to burn. We are fortunate to share nature and have beautiful trees and foliage surrounding us, but that beauty — if not cared for in a responsible manner, — can turn treacherous at the flick of a match. Please be careful and stay alive!