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Know the West

Indefensible space


Thanks for a clear, well-reasoned argument on a controversial issue ("Stand down from Western wildfires," HCN, 7/22/13). Unfortunately, whole communities are nearly indefensible because they were settled without much thought for fire, floods and the like. It is one thing to stand down from an indefensible house or two, or a smaller fire. But as whole towns are threatened, the pressure on firefighters becomes immense.

Government agencies and scientists were perhaps too optimistic, hardworking and brave, creating an unrealistic public expectation that fire can usually be controlled by fighting it or by fuel reduction. A national "stand down" is needed, so that firefighters don't have to make that decision on their own in high-pressure situations. Instead, homeowners and towns must get ready for the fires that are coming. If firefighters were there primarily to deal with fires as they enter defensible space around communities, wouldn't we have something more realistic, safer and sustainable?

Bill Baker
Durango, Colorado