Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Oakland, State Officials Sift Rubble for Answers Forestry Experts Question Dense Development of Fire-Prone Rural Areas

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Oakland, State Officials Sift Rubble for Answers Forestry Experts Question Dense Development of Fire-Prone Rural Areas

Article excerpt

THE firestorm that turned hillside mansions here into a moonscape has raised pointed questions about everything from fire training to roofing materials.

How can such blazes be prevented in the future?

Should more be spent on firefighting?

Why do people keep using wood-shingle roofs?

The soul-searching is most intense in this benumbed community. But similar questions are beginning to reverberate throughout California, as the depth of the destruction here - more than $5 billion, the most of any fire in United States history - becomes apparent.

Even without a five-year drought, California is the nation's most combustible state. Long, hot summers, coupled with dry fall winds and tindery vegetation, make fire an ever-present danger. The continued migration of residents into rural areas exacerbates the problem.

"California has an ecology that is just built to burn, " says Karen Terrill of the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "The fire-flood cycle has always been alive."

The Oakland fire, which consumed more than 2,500 dwellings, underscores what some experts consider the growing threat of "wildland" fires in urban areas. City fire departments, like Oakland's, are set up more to fight structural blazes. Fires in wooded areas require different tools and techniques, experts say.

"There needs to be more cross training," says John White, a coordinator with the respected fire science program at Shasta Community College.

He believes greater use of such things as bulldozers and hand crews creating fire breaks might have aided in suppressing the fire here this week. But local fire officials say that some equipment wouldn't work in the hills and steep canyons of Oakland, and they maintain that no amount of firefighting capacity or technique could have checked the wind-whipped inferno.

Debate is also sharpening over the amount of money being put into fire suppression. The state recently cut $4 million from its fire protection budget, though Gov. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.