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Virginia Moran: Time to get to the roof of the matter

Virginia Moran
Other Voices

This editorial is dedicated to all the people in California who have lost their lives in a fire.

When my A-frame burned down in the 2003 Cedar Firestorm in San Diego, I had just finished remodeling the entire house including installing an Elk shingle asphalt composite roof.

The roof was three weeks old.

According to the firefighters in our neighborhood at the time, and the obvious fact when I went and saw it myself, the new roof melted like molasses and collapsed my home. In other words, that roof was not “fire safe.” And how could it be, because asphalt composite roofing is made from oil and we then put it on top of our houses made out of wood — the same thing we clear off our property for “fire safety.”

As a fire victim, ignoring this strikes me as some kind of insanity.

I need a new roof and I am having a flashback, kind of a bad one, because here I am again, doing what I can afford but I know isn’t best: putting a new asphalt composite roof on my wooden house.

I got a rebate for my energy-efficient washing machine. I could get one for a hybrid or electric car. There are a lot of rebates out there from this state that I appreciate. These are called incentive programs and they work and they are terrific (remember Cash for Clunkers?). But when I called to see if there is an incentive program for fire-safe roofs, truly fire safe (cement shingle, slate, tile, metal), incentives that could save lives, there is no program at all to help us fire-proof our homes. Zero.

But someone will show up and cut your trees down, even though since 2003, over 10,000 structures have burned down in this state, between 65% and 75% of which it is estimated did some kind of “fire clearing.” The structures still burned down because it isn’t working and it can’t while our roofs are made from oil and our homes are made of wood, and they catch one another on fire: our homes are the fuel.

As a fire victim, ignoring this strikes me as some kind of insanity.

The most pressing issue facing California is fire. Californian’s must lobby their legislators to take actions to save lives and homes. Logging a forest 20 miles away in the name of saving our lives and homes is hitting the door and missing the dartboard. It isn’t working, at least if what we want to do is save lives and homes.

Direct action to improve the fire resistance of our structures is required. We need to ask our legislators, why are these measures going ignored? Could lives have been saved in Paradise if the state had offered an incentive program like this, particularly to install truly fire-safe roofs?

I just have to add that if you go there, many of the trees that were directly next/near the homes are still standing, it is thought at least in part, because they were regularly watered.

So once again, I will be paying to install a roof on my wooden home I know will likely contribute to its destruction, and my feeling at this point is that the state of California could care less. Let’s go log some pine trees instead.

Please contact your legislators and/or forward this to them. Let’s insure that those who lost their lives in fires did not die in vain.

Let’s take direct action to protect existing structures and hopefully save lives. Thank you.

Virginia Moran lives in Alta Sierra.

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