Why do we still build homes out of wood in wildfire country?

Flames approach a home built on a forested ridge during the Camp fire in Big Bend, Calif., on Nov. 10, 2018.
(Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)

To the editor: Building homes with lumber is a much bigger problem than whether they are located in the wildland-urban interface. (“California’s wildfire commission delivers its reform plan, only to be promptly ignored,” editorial, June 17)

The U.S. has one of the highest rates of fire deaths in the developed world. Many countries build houses in forests, and we are not the only ones who have forest fires. Examples are Sweden, Germany, and China. The houses and their people tend to survive fires because they build with masonry or reinforced concrete.

An example in the other direction is Russia, which has a much higher home fire death rate than we do. The people there build with larch in their forested lands. As in the United States, those houses become torches when a wildfire occurs, adding tons of perfect dry fuel to a conflagration.

What’s needed is a wildland-urban interface fire code, especially in California. There might still be contents fires, but death and damage would be much reduced. This has not occurred because of the strength of our timber industry.


Mike Roddy, Alameda, Calif.


To the editor: Have we learned anything from the past two years of catastrophic fires?

Recently the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the massive Centennial Development at Tejon Ranch, and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors is soon going to decide whether to approve the Otay Ranch development near the border with Mexico. Both of these projects are surrounded by wildands that have gone up in flames in the recent past and will naturally burn again.


These sprawling projects in severe fire zones will not only put thousands of houses and people at risk, but they will also pave over precious natural open spaces.

There are some places where housing developments just should not be built.

Tony Baker, Rancho Palos Verdes

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