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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Publisher’s Notebook

• Anemometer Anomaly •

BY ANNE SOBLE

The handheld anemometer that is in my bag of digital/electronic “journo” toys put in some heavy-duty overtime the last week as unseasonable April winds wreaked havoc on the local area.
Even though Malibu fared better through the north and northeast wind assaults than some of our neighbors, they underscored what has been evident for several weeks that Malibu’s spring may be as anomalous as its winter was and the weather rule books be damned.
The blaze being battled in Fillmore reiterates the presence of year-round wildfire danger as long as drought conditions prevail statewide and the ongoing need to do our part as residents to be as prepared as possible for a local catastrophe.
That high temperatures have not accompanied the strong winds has been the primary weather factor keeping the area’s fire danger from spiking off the chart. We all are well aware that those circumstances could change in an instant.
The relatively dry winter has left Malibu vulnerable. County fire department brush clearance notices have been mailed out and are ignored at one’s peril. Defensible space is often the difference between success and failure when flames threaten structures.
Despite the official mantra of ready-set-go, there are those of us who know we have made a difference protecting our families, homes and livestock during Malibu conflagrations. Every household must determine its strategy for addressing evacuation and wildfire response before a plan actually has to be implemented.
Malibu’s parched grasses are ready tinder for the dry fuel-laden brush that nature placed in the local mountains to facilitate a regular thinning process by weather forces. When humans entered the picture, this process became complicated.
But we are here now and we have to coexist with nature. Arrogant professions of human ability to assume control of the forces of nature by engineering or any other man-made methodology only serve to illustrate how little is understood about weather phenomenon such as wind, rain and wildfire.
Philosophical musings notwithstanding, complexity and immutability are at the heart of Malibu’s relationship with nature, and that interconnection requires the ability to respond to wildfire on its terms.
There will never be enough physical resources to stop an out-of-control wildfire in its tracks. Only nature can harness the wind, increase the humidity and enable the best of firefighters to ply their craft safely and successfully.

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