Monday, October 22, 2007

Fire Clarification

I realized, after some comments, that some readers thought I was being uncompassionate. Well...that's kind of true. I have a very tough time finding compassion for people who do stupid, irrational things that they KNOW are dangerous.
My husband just walked through the bedroom, where I'm watching the news, and said, "I know. I know. - You called it." Every time we drive to Los Angeles, I can't help myself from making comments on how irresponsibly homes are being built in Southern California. If it weren't so damn sad, it would be a Captain Obvious show. There's a small community near Stevenson Ranch that was JUST built a few years ago. The ironic thing is; the only reason the builder bought the land was because a fire went through there and cleared all of the built up debris and brush and wild scrub. Suddenly, it was easy to see the way you could plateau and steppe the hillside. So, the developer threw up 200 homes where a FIRE swept through every ten years for the last ninety years. !?!?! Huh? I feel bad for the people who are losing their homes, but...fucking duh! Just because you throw up some houses and landscape an area doesn't mean you're going to change the course of mother nature...especially when you leave scrub land all the way up to the front gates of your development. Fires can't read! And, fires don't care if your homes are high end. In California, there's no such thing as a house with a "big yard". Developers cram as many houses as possible onto these hillsides. Fires can't do ratios. If you put a bunch of logs end to end, do you think the fire is going to stop just because you say- "these are expensive homes!" No. The fire is going to burn from one log to another until something extinguishes the fire.

As for the people in Malibu, it's hard to put it into words, but... would you build a house in Kansas without a basement because the basement was aesthetically displeasing? No. You wouldn't. Because, the basement is the only thing that will save your ass in the almost guaranteed tornadoes and thunderstorms. People in Malibu just don't think! They'll build six thousand square foot houses on stilts, with shake roofs, because it "looks nice". They'll allow the chaparral to come right up to their manicured lawn because having a big swath of bare earth around the house isn't aesthetic. !?!? You know what else isn't "aesthetically pleasing"? FIRES THAT EAT YOUR HOUSE! Nom, nom, nom. <---that was the fire eating their house. And, yet... after the fire eats their house, they will build again. And, after two years of fire safety, they'll fall into that complacency. The weeds will come up to the lawn...again. The bushes will get a bit tall around the house...again. The palm trees that, literally, exploded the first time (sending hungry little fire balls onto the roof) will be replanted with...more palm trees. It's California, after all. The people will let the new and improved landscaping "mature" (because, that's when it looks good) and...nom, nom, nom. Guess what?

There are three things you can count on in Southern California mountain communities (like Malibu and Stevenson Ranch and most of San Diego) :
1. Every October, the wind blows from the east. This is called the Santa Anas. They happen every fucking year and even Los Angeles International Airport has learned that you can't fight it - you must work with it. Land the planes the other biggie.
2. Southern California is primarily dry, chaparral. Creosote burns well.
3. Southern California isn't known for it's rainy season.
Those things considered, if you have a fire in October (nom, nom, nom), shit's going to go down. It has every October since Jesus was a lad. Don't act surprised and cry on television about how it was "so unexpected" and "moved so fast." Don't go on CNN and say, "well...we just never thought it could happen to us." when the house you just built was built where the question is not "will there be a fire?", but "when and how big?"

In Malibu and San Diego, there's one other little thing that people forget.
Hills that have been burned do not have great rooting keeping the top soil stable. When January and March come through, it can rain. Ironically, the wettest storms seems to come after he biggest fires --- or, maybe it just seems that way because landslides happen every year, too. Again, it's not a question of "if"'s "when and how much?" So, when your home slides down the hill in March and gets swallowed by the mountain - I don't wanna' hear it. Don't build your six thousand square foot house on stilts, on a 40% grade.

Another issue: if the road in and out of your home is a one lane, windy, kind of paved piece of shite... do you really expect the fire truck to get there?, don't go on FOX News and bitch about a lack of fire response. You wanted a view and your own Valhalla in the hills? You got it. Nom, nom, nom.

Ok...I think I'm done.


holliwud517 said...

Nom...nom...nom...LMAO!!! It snowed in CO on Sunday. October...who'd a thought? My mom called me that afternoon and said, "You got snow? Guess what's happening here?" I thought about it and said "Hm...lemme guess...Santa Anas and probably Malibu and Simi Valley is on fire?" That was without seeing any California news. You're right, if you grew up in So. Cal. its to be expected. I hope Heather Locklears Agoura Hill house burns this time. *snicker*

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Snow is awesome. :)

LOL- it's so hard to explain to someone not of the SoCal that people treat fires, here, like they do NASCAR in the South. You know there's going to be some carnage and someone might die, but you still watch it with a beer in your hand and think, "Look what the gone and done now!"

And, then there's the cynical part of me that thinks, burning close to a place a major corporation would love to collect some insurance on rather than close it? Hmmmmmmmm. You always have the dufus who's home is being foreclosed on who's standing in the drive-way with a blow torch and trying to get everyone to look away.

I'm so jealous of the snow.

I was thinking about Big Bear today, though. I really need to scan the pics of our snowmen into the computer. LOL

(Note to those who do not know Holliwud: She's been my friend since 1989. We were really close friends in high school and she was in the room when P1 was born.)

SWE said...

A voice of reason, I say. It seems like NObody ever says this stuff because it would be "callous" when people are losing homes. But really, people wouldn't be losing homes but for nonsensical building. When we lived in Chicagoland we saw mcmansions being built in drained swamps and gave wicked little laughs.

Nom...nom...nom says the swamp monster...

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

I certainly wouldn't wish a fire on anyone. But it is sort of like living on a large fault and then getting upset when the earthquake hits.

My sister-in-law lives in Stevenson Ranch. Her neighborhood has very strict fire control covenants and was designed so that people could get out easily. They watched the fires come right down to their neighborhood a few years ago.They are thinking of moving somewhere a little more sane. If they can sell the house.

And guess what happened here yesterday. Yep. Snow in October. And who'd have thunk it at 7500 feet. It was gone a half-hour after the sun came up, though.

holliwud517 said...

Funny you mention Big Bear...a friend of mine has a 4 year old...who is in the "Mom, I'm done...come wipe my butt" phase. I had some chuckles. BTW...this blog is much more entertaining than your other one ;)

Chris said...

Meh, up here in Southern Oregon, at least in this town, we had snow this September. It didn't last long, but it was still here, and we're only at 4000ft. The day before a weekend motorcycle camping trip, too. Weee!

Nicholas said...

You're right, of course. Its like buildong a house on a flood plain then moaning when the water rises makes you homeless.

Poodles said...

OOOOHHH We got snow too!

I completely agree with you. We have an area here in the southern end of the valley. Growing up when we had a really wet winter the side of this one mountain came down in mudslides like clockwork, you could count on it.

Now there are homes there. Some of them have began sliding. IMAGINE THAT!

People want the highest, biggest house and best view, but anyone who has lived here at least 10 years can remember those slides and knew what would happen.

Nope, I have no pity.

AlisonM said...

You know, I was thinking about this last night, because of allyson's comment in the last post. I did feel a twinge of guilt, but then I remembered a story from my past, in which a friend made an abominably stupid move - lying about her education on a resume. She was all excited about her new job, but when the employer checked and discovered the lie, he withdrew the offer. She wanted all of us to stand behind her because it was only a little lie (three credits short of a degree is almost a degree, right?) and everyone else lies, too (so it's unfair to punish her and not everyone else who lies as well.) None of us took her side. In fact, everyone, without exception, told her she was wrong. If you can look a friend straight in the eye and say "that was a really stupid thing to do," then you can say that about a stranger and allow a giggle or two to sneak out without guilt. In the NJ situation, we throw in some anger because the people who build in inappropriate places also want the tax dollars of everyone else in the state to maintain their beach and repair storm damage, while also keeping the very taxpayers who saved their butts off of their personal sand. For them, guffaws and belly laughs are more in order.

Gramomster said...

"Its like building a house on a flood plain then moaning when the water rises makes you homeless."
(sorry... don't get the html tags for bold)

Yup, that's what I was thinking. I spent a lot of years living on the Russian River in Northern California. I helicoptered out in the '86 "hundred year" flood. (We lived up high, but ran out of clean water, and had a 9 month old)
My friends and neighbors rebuilt homes right in the floodplain! One friend rebuilt 3 times (!!!!) before moving off the River because she just 'couldn't win'. Really. Against the river. Go figure. Stoooopid. Dumbass river rats...

ShadesOfGrey said...

I like getting your version of the news better than anyone else's...lots of bare, nekkid truth rolled up in sarcasm (one of my fav forms of humor). :>

Saurian200 said...


You're right, of course. Its like buildong a house on a flood plain then moaning when the water rises makes you homeless.

It's funny you should say that. I used to work as a tour guide in the "hip" town in the area. (The town people bought houses in to prove how cool an/or rich they are.)

Each and every year there were people who were ompletely suprised and furious that thier brand new houses were flooding. Now for some perspective, the town in question is built on low land between the Deleware river and a canal. To be blunt it seem as if the town was specifically designed to flood.

Not only that, but it has flooded at least a little, regularly since the town was first built. What's worse, many of these people either build or buy houses that are literally feet from the water.

Yet, still, people can not believe that they would ever have to deal with flooding. I have some sympathy, of course, but still, it drives me nuts.

tina said...

That's weird..I came to your post and I am listening to NPR about the fires there. Yeah, it's like trying to bitch about the heavy snow in Michigan when you have bald tires...hello.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Nom...nom...nom says the swamp monster...
No, no. The fire monster clearly says "Nom nom nom" (my three year old says so). I asked him what the swamp monster says and he gave me the official translation - it appears that the swamp monster says -"gulp gulp slurp".

But it is sort of like living on a large fault and then getting upset when the earthquake hits.

Which is why it's going to suck when the earthquake hits and I'm going to have to eat my words. ;)
But, your point is made and acknowledged, I worry about quakes - even have an alert on my computer for anything over a 3.0. But, I can also say that KNOWING that we live in California (and near the San Andreas and White Wolf faults) - we've taken excessive measures to protect our family. The code said you need to strap your water heater to a wall - we have three, top of the line, seismic straps on our water heater AND we added a fire proof closet with an external vent so that IF it does break a gas line, it won't nom nom nom our house.
We have two, Rubbermaid trashcans full of extra shoes, clothes, foods, medications, batteries, flash lights, and... well, let's just say we could "camp" comfortably for two weeks. We go through the cans every six months and adjust the contents for the seasons needs. Plus, every kid in this house has a plastic bin with a small emergency kit (flashlight, whistle, cheap tennis shoes, and masks).
Everything taller than 30" is strapped to a wall stud. Everything small on those shelves is stuck to the shelf with earthquake putty. Everyone over the age of 10, in this house, knows how to turn off the gas line, the fuse box, and water.
The cars all have survival kits, in case we're out, with extra cell phone batteries. And, our smoke detectors are doubled in the bedrooms, with "talking" detectors in the kids' rooms (DH and I recorded a message saying: "Wake up, *child's name*. There is a fire." and then gives them specific instructions about what to do and where to go. Because, in reality, you can never be prepared for every disaster and contingency. But, NOT recognizing the threats and banking on the fact that it will never happen helps NO ONE. It makes the problems worse when there is a disaster. I didn't give birth to four children to have them killed by something stupid during an emergency.

Californians, and I am one of them, should know better than to get caught with their pants down in a natural disaster. They happen pretty regularly around here. ;)

maryandamy said...

You just made Amy snort out loud. And I got a good chuckle, too. You're right...About everything!

AmberKatt said...

I'll tell you why I cry when I read about these sorts of predictable, happens-on-a-regular-basis natural disasters. Back after whichever was the Reely Big SoCal Fire was back in the mid-90s, I was reading a magazine article about the people who went around rescuing all the abandoned pets, those whose owners couldn't or wouldn't evacuate them with the humans. And there was a picture of one poor little cat -- its owners had come back after the fire, and there was this poor little cat sitting on the doorstep, waiting for its owners to come and get it. It couldn't get outside the fire zone, so it ran home and waited on the doorstep (probably under the doorstep during the actual fire). And it was very badly burned -- lost its ears, tail, and one of its legs. And it eventually died of its injuries.

People are stupid, and do really stupid things like build houses in fire zones and on flood plains and such. But they drag poor innocent creatures down with them, subjecting them to horrible deaths because of their humans' stupidity.

Yeah it's callous and cruel of me to care more about the poor cats and dogs than the people, but I do.

Berlzebub said...

Ironically, the wettest storms seems to come after he biggest fires --- or, maybe it just seems that way because landslides happen every year, too.

I've heard the same thing, P-Momma. The hypothesis is that the ash combined with the updraft causes more particles in the air for the moisture to condense around. I.E. Nature's cloud seeding.

In the Greater Cincinnati area there's the annual flooding that makes the news, every year. Of course, they always do the token interview with someone who says they're "not going to move", or they'll "rebuild anyway" knowing the floods will come again next year.

FWIU, if you build on a flood plain, the mortgage companies require you to take flood insurance. So, they're paying even more for living in an area they should think twice about living in, anyway.

There's so many who apparently don't read that book they profess to follow. I can't remember what verse it is but...

It was a foolish man who built his house upon the sands.

Ironically, I'll bet even that foolish man only built it there once.

Zipi said...

As a former Catholic, you will appreciate the irony of the winds being called "Santa Ana's winds". That translates as "Saint Ana's winds", which sounds to any native Spanish speaker as tough it was Saint Ana up there who was responsible for the winds herself. And since saints can do that and much more in the Catholic tradition...