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Newsom’s plan to thin forests won’t make California safer from wind-driven fires

Newsom’s plan to thin forests won’t make California safer from wind-driven fires
Then-Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom walks with President Trump and then-Gov. Jerry Brown through wildfire-stricken Paradise, Calif., on Nov. 17, 2018. (Evan Vucci / AP)

To the editor: As a scientist with an environmental organization, I’m not just concerned that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s emergency wildfire declaration exempts forest-thinning projects from environmental review. I’m concerned that these projects won’t keep communities safe and that they’ll divert resources away from effective fire safety strategies.

Under California’s logging- and thinning-focused approach, the state has suffered unprecedented wildfire deaths and property loss. That’s because forest thinning is hopeless against the wind-driven fires of recent years.

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Furthermore, many of the most at-risk areas in California aren’t in forests, but are instead in chaparral, grasslands and oak savanna ecosystems.

We know what does keep people safe from fires, and that’s retrofitting homes and pruning vegetation in the 100 feet around them. That’s where the money and attention should go.

Shaye Wolf, Oakland

The writer is a climate scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity.

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To the editor: I strongly commend Newsom for declaring a wildfire safety emergency. Living in Mandeville Canyon for the past 25 years, fire has been one of my prime concerns.

Modern standards require that hillside construction has two ingress and egress roads, but we are on a five-mile-long, dead-end street. We have been pushing for alternative escape routes since the fire in Paradise, Calif., and have identified five potential exits.

However, the Los Angeles Fire Department has expressed concern that people will panic in the event of wildfire and use the fire roads during an emergency, blocking the road or driving into the fire itself. These roads are currently in bad shape and need to be repaired.

Consider that this would be a far worse outcome than if we plan ahead and create passable routes out of here and install an effective communication system (cell service is spotty to nonexistent in our canyon).

Gov. Newsom, we have high-density population at great risk. Please add us to your list.

Teri Redman Kahn, Los Angeles

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