Dick Tracy: Don’t wait for a tragedy; take action now to be fire safe | TheUnion.com

Dick Tracy: Don’t wait for a tragedy; take action now to be fire safe

Dick Tracy
Columnist

Dick Tracy

The outdoor wedding of one of my wife's former horseback-riding students brought us to Montecito over a year ago.

In that idyllic community, the ancestral Spanish-style home on a one-acre estate where the wedding was staged was on the market as a "fixer-upper" for $4.5 million. A bargain, compared to neighbors.

And having visited that idyllic setting it didn't surprise me to learn many residents stayed at home when advised to evacuate for mudslides. They had luckily escaped much damage from the historic Thomas Fire and were tired of being ousted from their homes.

But in the aftermath, over 100 homes were lost, 20 had died and two "missing" are probably entombed in drying mud.

Every time I drive through the lovely, tree-shaded community at Alta Sierra I shiver at the chilling vision of what a full-blown firestorm could do there.

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Tragic, but what's that got to do with us?

Every time I drive through the lovely, tree-shaded community at Alta Sierra I shiver at the chilling vision of what a full-blown firestorm could do there.

The ground around many of the homes is covered with leaves and dry pine needles. And they fill rain gutters, too. So, even those homes whose owners have a "fire-safe zone" on the perimeter are potential victims of wind-blown embers landing in rain gutters under roof eaves.

It's chilling, too, to think of what might happen if fire were blown through the treetops, and residents were forced to evacuate on narrow, smoke-filled twisting roads toward one of the few exits from the subdivision.

Imagine the chaos if even one disabled vehicle, or a traffic accident, blocked passage?

A friend familiar with such situations listened to my, "What if" secret fears and shook his head: "It's not a matter of 'if' it happens," he said. "It's 'when'."

What to do in what will probably be a particularly dry 2018? That answer has to come from the Alta Sierra community, currently meeting in tandem with fire officials. And the sooner the better.

I'd suggest having a large, easy-to read map for the safest road exit (depending on which direction the wind is blowing) posted in a prominent place in every home, along with a short list of the most important things (like computers and vital papers) to grab on the way out the door.

Perhaps installation of a community-wide siren warning system would be the best expenditure.

It's ironic to me how reports from flood-ravaged Santa Barbara County seldom acknowledge there are more rains, and mudslides, still to come. The devastation isn't over.

And even if we escape a deadly fire season this year, the threat still looms here and in other heavily populated communities like Lake of the Pines and Lake Wildwood.

The time for action is now.

Dick Tracy, who lives in Grass Valley, is a member of The Union Editorial Board. His views are his own and do not represent the views of The Union or its editorial board members. Contact him at EditBoard@TheUnion.com

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