Mailbag: The 1993 Laguna Beach fire and unresolved threats

A man on a bike watches as flying embers and flames land on the street during the Laguna fire in October 1993.
A man on a bike can only watch as flying embers and flames land on the street and begin to overtake the neighborhood on lower Skyline Drive during the Laguna firestorm on Oct. 27, 1993.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

In 1993, the Laguna Beach fire, one of the 20 largest fire losses in U.S. history, burned 16,000 acres, destroying over 400 homes and causing $528 million dollars in damage (according to the OC Register). Starting on Oct. 27, 1993, a brush fire in Laguna Canyon spread at phenomenally fast rates, burning the top half of Emerald Canyon at 100 acres per minute. Fire flashed across Laguna Canyon Road, leaping up the slope with 200-feet flames. The Laguna Beach Fire devastated the community. However, local ecosystems bore the real brunt, as entire populations of species were engulfed by the flames with no escape.

A wildlife corridor is a strip of habitat connecting two ecosystems. Without an adequate wildlife corridor, which would typically allow animals to flee an area during a catastrophic event and recolonize soon after, species were trapped. The loss of biodiversity was devastating, killing nearly one in five of the county’s gnatcatchers, a serious setback for the federally listed threatened songbird. Poor escape routes coupled with the rapid spread of the fire resulted in repercussions that are still visible today, nearly 30 years later, as many species struggle to reach population rates prior to the fire.

The need for a wildlife corridor has become more critical than ever. As we transition into the peak of 2021’s fire season (which, due to impacts from climate change, has extended to nearly year round), the central Orange County coastal wilderness is yet again at risk of another devastating fire. Without proper evacuation routes, threatened species still recovering from 1993 cannot endure yet another disastrous fire. The Laguna Greenbelt, Inc. is leading a coalition to pursue the completion of an Irvine-Laguna Wildlife Corridor that would allow the movement of wildlife between the 22,000-acre greenbelt and the more than 150,000 acres of natural land in the Cleveland National Forest and Santa Ana Mountain foothills. However, they need your help. While the risk of wildfires is inevitable, the impacts on wildlife are not. As wildfires increase in severity, and we enter yet another climate change-induced drought, it is imperative that we focus more attention and resources on biodiversity conservation and a completed corridor.


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Lilie Kulber
Laguna Beach

Vaccination rate remains too low

I am so proud to have a voice on the Orange County Board of Supervisors (Katrina Foley) representing my district when it comes to the battle against COVID-19. Unlike her predecessor (Michelle Steel), she is a compassionate advocate for the public health of her constituents and for protecting us through whatever measures are necessary to prevail in this crisis.

Andrew Turner’s well-written article, Omicron variant brings calls of caution, (Dec. 4 Daily Pilot) mentioned a statement from deputy county health officer Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong that 65% of all county residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. While that may be average for a number of counties in California, the percentage could and should be a lot higher.

The problem appears to be more political than medical. One party and its right-wing allies have consistently resisted the protective measures (from masking and distancing to full vaccination) needed and has fueled the anti-vaxx side of the equation by falsely claiming it to be a matter of personal freedom and individual liberty. Included in their arguments are misinformation, disinformation and political rhetoric that is given unwarranted credence due to its sources. This stance has promoted dissension and division in our communities, especially in my hometown of Huntington Beach.

The best way to combat the Omicron variant, as with all other COVID-19 variants, is to get vaccinated and get booster shots if required. If more political leaders had the same outlook on our public health crises as Supervisor Foley, Orange County vaccination rates would increase and our communities would be better protected.

Tim Geddes
Huntington Beach

Kudos for Casagrande

Though I write regularly as a theater columnist for several publications and have long assumed that I am adept at the skill of writing, most of my grammar and punctuation is done intuitively. I am always grateful to learn from June Casagrande’s column what the explicit “rules” and terminology are for achieving clear, crisp writing. Ms. Casagrande’s writing wisdom makes me a better wordsmith.

Ben Miles
Huntington Beach

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