Fire risks outweigh camping benefits

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This letter was addressed to Pat Veesart at the California Coastal Commission.

Wildfires in Southern California are not only terrifying, but also extremely destructive and costly, both in emotional impact and damage to our economy. Our ongoing drought makes any uncontained fire, whether in the chaparral of our mountains or in an urban area, difficult to defeat.

At last report, the Santa Barbara fire last month was attributed to one attempting to clear a firebreak, started small, and was impossible to control before hundreds of millions of dollars in damage was incurred. The cost of fighting the fire was more than our fragile economy can withstand without a severe negative impact on other important services. The recent Corral Canyon fire in Malibu was similarly expensive in emotion and dollars, and was caused by a few scoff laws who knowingly disobeyed the rules in a designated park area, apparently too remote to be adequately monitored by the Park Ranger staff.

We currently have a proposal to create overnight camping in the Santa Monica Mountains and are assured that rules will be applied to ensure only cold camping (no fires) and that the camp sites will be monitored and policed. “Trust us” doesn’t cut it in today’s fire risk environment and the budget cuts which will surely create shortfalls in any plan to provide 24/7 ranger monitor and patrol service.

We can’t afford to be casual about fires in Malibu. The risk of wildfire due to camping far outweighs any benefits due to expanding the camping in the Santa Monica Mountains. There already exists 1,300 camping opportunities which must be considered as sufficient to preclude the assumption of additional fire risk. We implore you to consider the cost/benefits of the proposal to expand camping in the Santa Monica Mountains and deny the request.

Erwin E. Schulze, Jr. & Bonnie L. Schulze