Preparing for Fire Season Requires More than Hope

The Palisades Fire, which was set by an arsonist, highlights problems with the wildland-urban interface and the need for planning, which  could include better construction and evacuation routes.

With fire season around the corner and the drought reaching new heights here’s a cautionary tale about a village with poor fire management.


Long time ago in the middle of a forest there is a small village in a clearing just large enough to raise a few livestock and plant a few crops.

A small creek ran across the back side where the towns people would get water to drink and wash clothes. The creek would provide entertainment for the kids on hot summer days, there were some fish in the river but not big enough to eat.

The town survived by living off what the forest provided. It was filled with small animals, rabbits and squirrels, and bigger game mainly deer, but there would be the occasional bear.

The forest was also filled with berries where the women would pick from sunup to sundown. The town knew they were dependent on the forest.

From the food to the shade to the lumber it was their lifeline and so every full moon the town would throw a feast in honor of the forest. They would sing, dance, and feast.

Daily life was simple the kids would run around, play and  the women would pick the berries, take care of the livestock, the crops, and prepare the food.

The village was normal except for one aspect, the men would wake up every morning before the sun to train.

The training consisted of throwing rocks, running, and carrying their bags. Only the strongest would train while the rest of the men would help by bring back the rocks that were thrown and getting water for the trainers.

They were training to fight the greatest evil the village knew, fire.

Known as firefighters, they would practice running so they could get to a fire as quick as possible. They would practice throwing rocks to put out the fire, they would carry bags filled with rocks.

The village treated the firefighters like heroes because they were responsible for protecting the village from fire.

Whenever someone saw smoke or smelled a fire the alarm was sound, the firefighters would pick up their bags filled with rocks and run to put out the fire no matter the size.

While they were fighting the fire, the women and children would prepare a feast, in honor of the firefighters.

When they came back to the village, they would have a hero’s welcome, and tell tales  the about them destroying the fire as they celebrated.

This went on for many years to the point where the kids that where once playing in the river soon became the firefighters continuing the legacy of their forefathers.

One day the alarm was sounded, and the firefighters went out to protect their village.

But today was not a normal day. When the firefighters got to the fire, and it was the biggest fire they had ever seen. Well, they started throwing rocks to put out the fire but it was like the fire was eating the rocks.

The firefighters ran out of rocks and not knowing what to do just stood frozen in place. Other tried hitting the fire with the bags but all that did was make the fire angry and it towered above them so high that everyone in the village could see the fire.

The firefighters ran back to the village, where the feast was being prepared.  When they arrived heads down, bags gone the village knew something was wrong.  The women and children tried to cheer them up, but eventually they started crying too when they saw the fire run at the village like a deer running through the forest.

The moral of the story is that fire is a part of nature and without proper management like controlled burns, brush clearance, and well-maintained power lines it can destroy towns and lives. 

Eight of the largest blazes on record have struck California in the past five years. On one side is climate change, but the other side is the growth  of homes in the wildland-urban interface. That means creating defensible space around homes, and building houses that are better protected against burning embers carried by the wind. 

A Paradise home burns during the Camp Fire.
Photo: ABC Action News

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2 Responses to Preparing for Fire Season Requires More than Hope

  1. Stephanie Blanc says:

    Hi Sue,
    Thanks for the fire alert. Controlled burning doesn’t work here in Southern California at all. I don’t understand, however , why we do not pay careful attention to the urban interface and CAREFULLY REMOVE , NOT CLEAR CUT, the non native vegetation like dried mustard, grasses, etc. Also utilities should really bury their lines. It wouldn’t hurt to irrigate a few times that interface either and we should be taxed to do so. There’s sensitive to the natural environment information out there. I will send you some links later in the day. Thanks for all that you do to keep us informed.

  2. Tony Lynn says:

    Take a look at our Governor’s home from the air. Many of the trees are growing OVER THE HOME! I guess “preparation and defensible space” are only important for others …

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