Patterico's Pontifications

10/24/2007

Why one California Development escaped the Fires

Filed under: Real Life — DRJ @ 6:15 pm



[Guest post by DRJ]

This LA Times article describes LA’s Stevenson Ranch subdivision that escaped the 2003 and 2007 fires, in large part because it was designed to do just that.

Similarly enhanced building code and planned development standards will go into effect for California in 2008. One fire safety expert describes it as the principle of “defensible space.” In addition, fire prevention techniques must be implemented by communities, not just individual homeowners.

The key seems to be a good line of defense and learning from past mistakes.

— DRJ

15 Responses to “Why one California Development escaped the Fires”

  1. The key seems to be a good line of defense and learning from past mistakes.

    Ideas like that are one of the good things that come out of a tragedy like this.

    Very interesting article, DRJ. Thanks for posting it.

    Paul (146bba)

  2. DRJ: I’ve had two comments on the “Wildfires from Space” thread that haven’t shown up. Are you able to check?

    Thanks.

    Itsme (b1ce9f)

  3. Interesting article, by the way.

    I’ll bet they get good insurance rates, too.

    Itsme (b1ce9f)

  4. As an architect, I welcome giving good design a higher profile. Way too many people think of their home as an investment, when it’s primary purpose is to protect the owners and the owners goods. I would add providing fire hydrants connected to the neighborhood swimming pool and having an annual visit by a heard of goats to keep hillside vegetation in control to the list.

    tyree (55870c)

  5. Itsme #2:

    Sorry. I didn’t see this earlier but I found your comment and I posted it. It does it to me, too, every time I include a link to a government website.

    Tyree: That’s interesting. We have lots of homeowners in the country who keep goats so I’m familiar with that, but I never thought of linking pools to fire hydrants.

    DRJ (970b3a)

  6. Thank you. It was a snarky one, but hey, as worthy as most, I guess.

    Itsme (b1ce9f)

  7. LA used to have a goat herd up on Mulholland.
    The California Conservation Corps and other groups make for a more efficient fire break.
    The goats can maintain a fuelbreak OK, but the height, dryness, etc of the chapparral is unappealing even to goats.
    Send in the convicts with chippers and chainsaws..

    Pools here in my town are already marked by two blue bots dots and community pools have access for emergency vehicles already. So the fire fighters drop a hose in it and pump it dry.
    An Olympic pool holds about 650K gallons which lasts about 35 minutes in a wildfire.
    There is usually no power in a wildfire, so the fire truck pump provides that.
    Locating the hydrant down hill would give it some head pressure, but that assumes there is a hill, and that the bottom of that hill is where the fire is.
    Also, the firefighters like to standardize for interagency mutual aid cooperation (which is awesome here) and they probaly wouldn’t know where the dedicated pool hydrant was, or that their water was about to run out after 35 minutes.

    Here in Southern California we have all kinds of cross connection regulations and non potable water appurtenance issues and like I said, the firefighters drive up, drop a hose in the pool and pump it dry anyway

    SteveG (4e16fc)

  8. how about NOT BUILDING where brusy areas catch fire on a regular basis? costal areas of the southeast US learned similar lessons due to beach erosion, DONT BUILD there.

    james conrad (7cd809)

  9. Ideas like that are one of the good things that come out of a tragedy like this.

    Uh, none of these are new ideas. I remember fires in the mid 1980s followed by similar articles on prevention.

    dave (095afa)

  10. how about NOT BUILDING where brush areas catch fire on a regular basis?

    As the article points out, with proper design it’s not much of a problem.

    Unlike building in flood plains, and right next to eroding beaches.

    LarryD (feb78b)

  11. And keeping brush cleared away is one good way to keep ones home from burning up during one of these fires and dont let the eco-wackos tell you otherwise

    krazy kagu (6cb3c5)

  12. I wish we could get more reporting regarding this subject… why have some neighborhoods been decimated & others not?

    I’ve lived in a high risk fire area for 10 years. Over the years we have been under multiple mandatory evacuations. There has never been a home lost out here, for at least 20 years… maybe longer… and there have been so many huge fires out here… this last “Ranch Fire” just the latest…

    My neighborhood– Hasley Canyon in Castaic– is 300 or so 3 to 50 acre ranches. The area has canyons about 3 miles long and roughly 1000 feet wide with a road in the middle and houses/ranches on either side.

    The path of the Ranch Fire through our area is incredible. Ranch after ranch has burnt scorched earth literally encircling each house, but no house was lost. Fences damaged, some outbuildings burned, but no houses lost… seems a miracle in light of all the homes lost elsewhere.

    Much of the fire happened Monday night when there was no air support, and only limited ground crews performing structure protection.

    Out here we are all very meticulous about brush clearance & when we don’t do it, the Fire Department does it & charges us. Everyone I know clears brush at least twice the legal requirement.

    I’ve read just a bit about how elsewhere, outside of LA County, brush clearance is prohibited because of environmental concerns. If that is true, I have to believe that is why so many homes were lost.

    Is this true? Why isn’t this the big story?

    Susan (a16f61)

  13. Out here we are all very meticulous about brush clearance & when we don’t do it, the Fire Department does it & charges us. Everyone I know clears brush at least twice the legal requirement.

    That’s right. And if you don’t pay it, it’s added to your yearly property tax.

    I remember seeing a photo years ago of a house in the country where the guy took a bulldozer and built a fire ring around his house. Everything burned but his house. Everybody needs a bulldozer. [My preferred model would be one of those Israeli one’s the left hates so much.]

    dave (095afa)

  14. Oh, and Susan — happy to hear that you and your neighbors got through it okay. :)

    dave (095afa)


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