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Laguna Beach: Never Say Die

Once again, we have seen the photographs of people huddled in Laguna Beach, bracing themselves to assess the damage and coping with the harsh forces of nature. The city, struck by fire earlier this week, is one of the county’s natural wonders. It often seems perched on the point of peril.

Already this decade, Laguna Beach has emerged from a devastating wildfire that consumed about 400 houses in 1993. Climbing out to rebuild and prosper another day, it was battered last season by the storms and slides of El Nino. Hundreds more houses were lost or damaged, and two people died. Early this week, just as the city was ready to put on its holiday face, a fire struck the downtown area, inflicting $4.5 million in damage to 12 businesses.

Through the city’s cycles of golden days and brushes with disaster, the indomitable outlook of residents has been in evidence. That happened again this week. After taking stock, the city picked itself up and showed the world its resolve. By midweek, the downtown area was getting on with life, even as the toll to businesses was being tallied.

One businessman expressed a now-common sentiment. Randy Hunt, owner of a store that sells beach shirts and snowboarding outfits, declared, “The next step? We’ll rebuild.”

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Another business owner, Alice Browne, put the setback to her inventory of shoes in perspective. “It’s not like the Central American disasters, whole villages buried. We are still alive,” she said.

This week’s disaster was far less extensive than the 1993 fire and the recent mudslides. However, rebuilding and going on has become a way of living in Laguna Beach.

The recent fire apparently started in an electrically heated wax pot. One lesson for the future: take steps to ensure the safe storage of flammable materials in a community where buildings are close together and the danger of fire is a constant.

The idea that damage is a temporary setback in a close-knit community’s life is important. As the city rebuilds and moves on, it has displayed a spirit to inspire the entire region.

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