Wildfires destroy Californian homes

This is a video from the USA about the Sylmar fire.

By Dan Conway and Kevin Martinez in the USA:

Wildfires cause massive destruction in Southern California

18 November 2008

Thousands of residents were forced to flee their homes as wildfires continued to rage across Southern California last Friday night.

The fires were aggravated by a combination of low humidity, high winds, and high temperatures in Southern California. Indeed, the temperatures experienced in Los Angeles, which reached a high of 93 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday, were among the highest ever recorded for the city during the month of November.

At the time of this writing, the fires have burned more than 64 square miles (or 41,000 acres) and have thus far destroyed over 1,000 houses, mobile homes and apartments. A high school in the city of Brea was also among the many buildings destroyed.

White ash and smoke have been strewn as far away as 25 miles away from the fires, leading emergency authorities to advise that residents far from the fires remain in their homes due to the extremely poor air quality.

More than 484 homes burned to the ground in a trailer park of 600 homes in the town of Sylmar, the largest number of homes to be lost to fire in the history of Los Angeles. According to press reports, high winds blasted 50-foot flames horizontally through the grounds of the park, and poor water pressure hindered the efforts of firefighters trying to subdue the blaze.

The New York Times noted Monday that firefighters “complained that the development had only one exit and entrance, which made it difficult to move fire crews in as residents tried to move out.” The fire spread so quickly that firefighters themselves were forced to flee, leaving their equipment behind.

After searching the incinerated grounds with cadaver dogs, officials have stated that all residents likely made it out before the fire blew through the park, although as of this writing less than half of the park’s residents had been contacted. The vast majority of the community’s residents lost virtually all of their belongings.

The strength of the fire was augmented by the close positioning and housing material of the trailers within the park. Many of the mobile homes lacked fire-retardant material in their construction, causing them to ignite much more easily than other buildings. Older trailers with attic vents allowed the fire to spread into the attic areas, and the proximity of units enabled the fire to spread swiftly from one home to another.

Speaking at a news conference staged near the site of the disaster, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said the fire made it clear that mobile homes should be required to use more fire-resistant materials. “The fire ran through the mobile homes so fast,” he told the press. “Like matches, they caught fire, one right after the other.”

Schwarzenegger’s observation raises an obvious question: why weren’t basic regulatory safeguards on mobile home construction and placement already in place in a region well known for fires? In fact, such standards have long been foregone for the benefit of the prefabricated home industry and trailer park landlords, at the expense of the poorest section of the working class renters.

1 thought on “Wildfires destroy Californian homes

  1. Pingback: California, USA wildfires, inadequate warnings | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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