Mention Oct. 27, 1993 and the four days following to any Laguna Beach
local and they’ll tell of the horror of the 1993 fires.
The hillsides were scorched as the inferno made its way through
people’s homes, diminishing them to smoldering lots and rubble.
Throughout the city, Laguna Beach residents were evacuated.
Though there were no fatalities, there was much loss, including 366
After that tragedy, the community came together to improve the city’s
fire prevention, bringing into existence what is now called the Laguna
Coast Fire Safety Council.
As part of the safety council’s program, they have implemented an
aggressive approach to combating fire hazards, forming the red flag
patrol to help watch for and help prevent fires. And as fire season gets
firmly underway, council members are looking for anyone interested to
help the Laguna community be fire-free.
As part of the patrol, there will be specified routes through the
city’s wilderness, which will give the volunteers the access to monitor
fires and suspicious activity. The patrol will operate in coordination
with Orange County’s Red Flag program, which issues four levels of fire
Pat Cooper, chairman of the Red Flag patrol, said the need for
volunteers is great.
“This is a program that will be manned and staffed by citizen
volunteers in conjunction with the Laguna Beach and Orange County
authorities,” Cooper said.
The volunteers will go through a training program for safety but will
not have to commit to a lot of time.
“The volunteers will only be called on when there is a red flag
alert,” Cooper said.
The Laguna Coast Fire Safety Council was born out of the 1993 fires so
people could meet with others who had endured the loss of their house,
possessions, memories and sense of stability and self.
David Horne, a Laguna resident who lost his home, helped organize
the council in his neighborhood after the fires.
“There are and were a lot of elderly people in the Mystic Hills area,”
he said. “We began meetings to focus on rebuilding, not recrimination,
not retribution but to get our lives back.”
Through the exchange, they asked questions, sought answers and
reviewed resources in an effort to make the community less prone to
The council first was called the Laguna Free Choice Insurance
“We named it that because we wanted to feel like we had a choice and
we wanted to discuss it,” Horne said. “Sharing information gave
homeowners a good feeling that they were not left out on their own.”
Horne, a marketing professor at Cal State Fullerton, dove right into
the stream of answers by establishing lines of communications with big
Horne admits that he had no previous experience with insurance
matters on that level, explaining that his instinct to help Laguna Beach
thwart another disaster somehow led him through a series of steps that
grew into a whole process, plan and implementation that no other city
Essentially Laguna Beach residents -- through their enthusiasm to help
each other -- built a foundation and solid plan to revitalize the
community following the fires.
Among their tactics, they would invite key executives at each
insurance firm to a council meetings to discuss what measures they had
been taking as a community.
Horne explained to the skeptical corporations that they had no
intention of discussing individual policies or any sort of insurance
matters on a personal level. Rather all they wanted to do was to present
the companies with their work and what they had been doing, including
telling them the steps they had been taking since the fire in October and
explaining the measures they were executing to make the community safer.
“The companies were shocked,” Horne explained. “They had never heard
of such a thing by a city.”
The concept grew and fostered scheduled meetings with the insurance
commission on the state level. Mailings also got more people involved.
Added to the group was a city council representative, other
homeowner associations in Laguna, the fire department, the water
department and people at the department of forestry, which gave birth to
Laguna Beach’s first fire safety council.
The newly formed council had their first meeting on the anniversary of
“We had pretty good attendance,” Horne said.
The council will have applications and information at the Farmer’s
Market downtown on Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon.
For information on the Laguna Coast Fire Safety Council, check online
at o7 www.lagunacoastfiresafecouncil.orgf7 . For more information, call