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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: Yes, exterior sprinklers could save your home during a wildfire

Skirball fire
Firefighters try to save a home in Bel-Air during the Skirball fire on Dec. 6, 2017.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: The L.A. Times’ focus on reducing wildfire risk by making homes less likely to ignite in wind-driven conflagrations was spot on. However, the article is riddled with so many misconceptions that readers may end up making poor choices that could result in the loss of their homes during a fire.

First, exterior sprinklers have been shown to be extremely effective in saving homes during wildfires in the United States, Canada and Australia. Systems can be be installed quickly and at a reasonable cost.

Second, “a century of aggressive fire suppression” has nothing to do with Southern California’s wildfires. Rather, it is the excessive fire frequency that is causing the region to become more flammable due to the spread of nonnative, highly flammable grasses.

Finally, the implication that somehow if we just did what Native Americans did we might not have a wildfire problem ignores how the environment has changed.

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Richard Halsey, Escondido

The writer is director of the California Chaparral Institute.

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To the editor: As this article makes clear, safeguarding homes is best done by communities, and there are never enough firefighters to extinguish the countless tiny spot fires that can rapidly erupt in wind-driven scenarios.

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Having lived in a fire zone for many years, I recall neighborhood efforts to stop small fires before they could do real damage. But now, with residents being forced to evacuate, no one is left in our neighborhood to put out the small fires caused by embers. When one modern home filled with extremely flammable contents ignites, the entire neighborhood may very well burn.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but when I once saw a fire approaching my little hilltop home, I made sure the brush nearby was cleared, filled my trash containers with water and stood guard until the fire blew past and I could go out with my neighbors to douse small fires.

Thanks to all the firefighters who put their lives on the line, but they need all the help they can get in a wildfire. Local residents might be the best source of help available.

Peter Marquard, Northridge


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