Home     Writers     Op/Ed     Book Reviews     News     Bookstore     Photoshops     Submit     Search     Contact Us     Advertise  
  You are here: 

Sun

28

Oct

2007

About Those Destroyed Houses in California
Sunday, 28 October 2007 10:34
by Dave Lindorff

Check out the page one photo on the Thursday, Oct. 25 front page of the New York Times. It shows two rows of completely destroyed homes in San Diego, and two virtually untouched homes right in the midst of them.

The caption makes no mention of it, and indeed in news story after news story, reporters talk about the seemingly whimsical way the fire destroys some houses while bypassing others, but what the two homes in that photo that are seemingly unscathed have in common is red tile roofs.

This is not fickle fate at work; it is common sense. (Here's another aerial photo from the Times website, showing the same phenomenon.)

When I worked as a reporter in Los Angeles back in the 1970s, it was common knowledge — and was verified every time there was a wildfire — that if your house had a tile roof, and stucco walls, it pretty much was immune to fires.

Yet developers and home buyers, to keep their costs down, continue to put shake (wood) or asphalt shingles on houses in places like Southern California, where grass and forest fires are predictable annual events.

It's the western equivalent of homeowners and developers in the eastern US who persist in building homes on flood plains or along the coast at sea level.

You have to feel sorry for a family that loses their home, but really, how stupid can people be?

How stupid can insurance companies be, when it comes to that?

I'm reading that there are complaints about lack of adequate fire-fighting equipment and personnel in San Diego, where there is no county fire department, but I have yet to see one article looking at how many of those houses that were lost had flammable roof materials.

In suburban Southern California, you don't have deep forests, where burning trees will fall down on houses and spread fires. Basically, fires spread there in two ways: grass fires bring flames up to a house, which if it is constructed of flammable wood, will then succumb to the flames, or else, burning cinders, sent aloft by a firestorm, will drop on rooftops and ignite the roofing material, burning down the house.

A house that has stucco on its walls and red tile shingles on its roof is not very vulnerable to either of those things. Unless a car is left in the driveway and blows up, igniting the garage, or a tree falls on the house, it will sit there and the fire will sweep right by it.

So you have to wonder, why don't all Californians all use tile roofing? Granted it's more expensive, but over the life of a house, the difference in materials cost isn't that much. Besides, tile lasts virtually forever, so you don't have to replace it after 15 years the way you have to do with shingles.

The other thing, of course, is that we're seeing a much more concerned Bush administration when the victims of a disaster live in a heavily Republican (and white) area like San Diego, than we saw when the disaster was in a heavily Democratic (and black) area like New Orleans.

This is true even though the black and poor victims of Katrina were living as best they could in a largely segregated city that kept most of them living below sea level, while many of the victims of the Southern California fires are wealthy people who made some bad choices in the design and construction of their homes.

I think it's a scandal that fire fighters have to risk life and limb rescuing people and property when much of the risk to those people and homes has been self-inflicted.
More from this author:
BREAKING NEWS: Eisenhower Carrier Group Sails for Iran Theater (24191 Hits)
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Eisenhower and its accompanying strike force of cruiser, destroyer and attack submarine slipped their moorings...
U.S. Military Has Killed Up to 238,000 Iraqi Civilians (11579 Hits)
A just-released study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, published in the current issue of the prestigious British medical journal The...
Bush's Middle East Strategy, and Presidency, Lie in Ruins as Republicans Scurry Away (9948 Hits)
by Dave Lindorff Well, so much for Iraqi “sovereignty.” So much too for "staying the course" and for "fighting the terrorists...
Time for Truth and Consequences (9111 Hits)
by Dave Lindorff The Bush administration, losing the war in Iraq, has come with a "new" strategy: setting a timetable for Iraq's...
Let's March in January! An Impeachment Call to Action (11321 Hits)
by Dave Lindorff I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that, barring some incredible act of criminal cynicism such as the...
Related Articles:
About (12537 Hits)
Atlantic Free Press was founded in September 2006 by Publisher Richard Kastelein of V.O.F. Expathos, in the Netherlands and Editor - Journalist Chris...
They Hate Our Freedom: The Truth about the Military Commissions Act (8537 Hits)
By Aaron Sussman On October 17th, with Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, and Donald Rumsfeld standing behind him, George W. Bush solemnly ...
So the Democrats Won – What About the American Empire? (7528 Hits)
by Shepherd Bliss The Democratic Party prevailed in the Nov. 7 midterm elections. "We’ve just moved out of a straightjacket," a...
University Unity - California professors and students join forces (4615 Hits)
by Seth Sandronsky The recent election win of an incumbent and centrist GOP governor in California over his Democratic rival by double digits...
“America’s moment in the Middle East is about to end” (7932 Hits)
by Mike Whitney There are no “accidents” in Middle East politics. This week’s assassination of Lebanese Industry Minister, Pierre...


Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites
Trackback(0)
Comments (1)add comment

Steve McIntire said:

0
Home owner in So Calif
Actually all the homes that burned to the ground had Succo and tile roofs. It was the way the builder built all the homes. The real reason some of these homes burnt is that the embers are flying at 90 degree angles and entering vents on the side of the house. There is now some discussion going on to update building codes about these vents and how to prevent the flying embers from entering the attic of the house. All the home that burned in Malibu in November all had tile roofs...
 
November 25, 2007
Votes: +0

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

adsense

Top