Thursday, June 4, 2009

Work Halted: Thunderstorms (and a sermon on natural building)

Back to living under tarps.

We are currently being besieged by rare June thunderstorms. Last night, Joni and I put the tarps back on, much like they do at Wrigley Field. We also packed a few bags just in case the multiple lightning flashes we saw triggered a fire. Being evacuated is a fact of life when you live in wildfire areas of California. All in all, we got an inch of rain. No fires started that I'm aware of as I type these words.

None of the bales got wet. The eaves hang over far enough to protect the straw. We covered the vulnerable places. More thunderstorms are called for today and tomorrow. An unexpected vacation for us.

The Foothills aren't quite as dry as last year, when lightning trigged hundreds of fires. The largest wildfire nearly consumed our newly moved into home (it took out four of ten homes on the ridge).

There is an ethical issue of building homes in the wilderness and fire areas. First there is the loss of habitat for our furry cousins and secondly, wildfire is an important natural component of the California ecosystem.

Combating wildfires in California has become an expensive proposition. And a huge industry. California needs to burn at frequent intervals. To not burn means that heavy fuels develop (the underbrush) which then cause not the nice little, friendly ground fires which are beneficial; the increased fuels causes "crowning" fires which are devastating to the forest. That is what we had in our area last year.

The solution? Let fires burn.

Build structures in fire prone areas that are 1.) congruent with the forest flora and fauna (limit high fences and don't use more land than you need); 2.) are able to withstand fires (clearance of fuel around the homes and structures made of fire resistant materials --dirt and straw are fire resistant); 3.) are cheaply replaced if burned.

In my view, building with natural materials, such as we are, should be the rule in fire prone areas. Not the exception.

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