Credit where credit is due and paying the full cost of location decisions. Given the chaotic situation on the ground and the time delay between filing a story and the paper hitting the door step, Karl Vick did a splendid job of covering the current firestorms in the southern part of California in today’s WaPo.

Why is this of interest in a Virginia Centric Blog? We have covered this issue in Bacon’s Rebellion – “Fire and Flood,” 3 Nov 2003, “Down Memory Lane with Katrina,” 5 Sept 2005, “Big (Gray, Brown) Sky Country,” 23 Oct 2006 and “A Second Stroll with Katrina,” 4 Sept 2007. The reason for raising it again is the same. Virginia is creating unsustainable settlement patterns just like Montana, California and Louisiana.

Back to Karl’s coverage. He does a fine job of reporting and the headlines are great: “Mother Nature vs. Human Nature: In Calif. Sprawl, Homes are Vulnerable to Fire.” He makes a sharp point with respect to the public cost of protecting private property put in jeopardy by stupid decisions.

There is one thing missing: Would all those citizens be so sure they would move back onto the same street in the same configuration (you can live “near the beach, near the desert, near Mexico, near the mountains” and near the same “nice people” without living next to a leaking gas tank) if they had to pay the full cost?

The cost of fire protection is one thing to add to the monthly budget, so is the cost of a fireproof roof. But how about the cost of insurance. Perhaps what is sold as “homeowner” and “household” insurance should be called “sort of insurance until something bad happens.” That is the case with past Florida Hurricanes and for water and wind damage from Katrina and Rita either by weasel words or by insurer bankruptcy.

Would it not be fair to allocate the true cost of the risk with a guarantee to pay the full cost of relocation and recovery if the projected disaster strikes?

There will not be functional human settlement patterns until there is a full allocation of all location variable costs. That is Mother Nature vs. Human Nature and the imperative of a free market and democracy.

(Full Disclosure: We are following these fires with more than just professional interest. A family friend of 40 years owns a house in Green Valley Lake, CA. Go to to see his current condition. Green Valley Lake is in the center of the donut hole in that map.)


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33 responses to “CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE”

  1. Not Ed Risse Avatar
    Not Ed Risse

    For a different point of view here is a great article:

    Land Socialism: Playing With Fire

    “How fashionable it is to love nature. Down with industry, development, internal-combustion engines, clear cutting, strip malls, and private ownership. Capitalists do nothing but ravage the beauty of mother earth. The hand of man only strangles and kills…

    …What went wrong? The problem is in the theory of environmentalism. Under it, ownership is the enemy. Nature is an end in itself. So it must be owned publicly, that is, by the state. The state, in its management of this land, must not do anything to it. There must not be controlled burning, brush clearing, clear cutting, or even tourism. We can admire it from afar, but the work of human hands must never intervene…”

  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    It’s a different point of view and wrong.

    Most environmentalists are in favor of Conservation and STEWARDSHIP of lands – to not despoil land in the pursuit of wealth.

    Most environmentalists are IN FAVOR of Management Plans for publically-owned land and many are in favor of policies such as proscribed burning and public access.

    What they are opposed to is the type of thing going on right now with mountaintop removal which then destroys creek valleys and rivers with silt and acid runoff.

    Most folks may not realize where our National Forests originally came from (i.e. why they were created in the first place):

    “..The national forest system was created by the Land Revision Act of 1891. It was the result of concerted action by Los Angeles -area businessmen and property owners who were concerned by the harm being done to the watershed of the San Gabriel Mountains by ranchers and miners.”

    The Sierra Club is an American environmental organization founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California.

    There are indeed those who claim to be environmentalists that would “lock up” land.. just as there are fringe group folks at the other extreme who do not believe that National Forests should be sold to private interests.

    I don’t mind an honest debate about enviromentalism but I do mind misrepresentation of basic facts.

    and if you really want to understand the situation with the fires in Calif.. read my next post

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Here’s some info that I think sheds some light that is useful for those that would like to be more informed …

    “San Diego County, the largest county in California without a fire department, relies on a hodgepodge of local departments that are almost all serving areas where populations are growing faster than their tax bases, and which are often low on money among a constituency that is generally allergic to taxes.”

    “One of the two firehouses in the East County Fire Protection District, which sits in the heart of the 2003 fire area, was nearly closed last month, saved only by a special tax approved by voters.”

    so this is NOT about environmentalists at all and it truly is about paying (or not paying) for locational costs.

    Homes… can be “hardened” against falling embers from wildfires and, in fact, is required by some insurance companies now and adds 10K or more to the cost.

    Further, homes can be outfitted with foam systems that put out the same foam that the planes drop = for around 10K.

    This ia all about people trying to evade the costs that are associated with where they have chosen to live.

    and for someone who owns a house worth 500K and clearly vulnerable to wildfire – to not spend the additional 10-20K … nor want to pay for fire service nor want proscribed burning done on the hillsides (please note the difference between homeowners (NIMBYS) and environmentalists).

    the “facts” say that this has virtually nothing to do with environmentalism and virtually everything to do with people unwilling to pay their locational costs and suffering from their own shortsightedness and really, irresponsibility for their own actions.

  4. Not Ed Risse Avatar
    Not Ed Risse


    You obviously did not read the whole article.

    Here are two more relevant paragraphs:

    “Ridiculous! Are we under the impression that private markets can’t handle risk management? Private markets specialize in protection of property, particularly against natural risks. If the land were privately owned, it would be protected against burning through better management. If it had to be burned, the burning would be controlled. Unexpected events like droughts and winds would be calculated into management decisions.

    What’s more, there would be serious liability issues. Any owner of property who let fires rage would be directly responsible for imposing fires on others. This is the way markets work. If my bathtub overflows, floods my house, and then the waters flood my neighbor’s house, I am responsible via my insurance policy. So, yes, there would be a price to pay for fires on your land that harm others’ property.”

    Governments, of course, claim no responsibility for fires burning on public lands.

  5. Jim Bacon Avatar

    To bring this post back home to Virginia… The Old Dominion, too, has forest fires. We’ve never seen anything on the scale of what’s happening in San Diego, but we would be naive to think “that could never happen here.”

    When other regions suffer catastrophes, it should inspire us to learn from their example and do some introspection. How vulnerable are we to forest fires? What is the fire fighting capability of our municipal governments, especially those located in areas most likely to be affected? As more and more vacation homes are built in Virginia’s mountains, how many of them are exposed and vulnerable? What responsibility do home owners have to protect themselves from the risk of fire (building to higher standards, for example), how adequately are they insured, and what right do they have to expect the rest of us, through the intermediation of the government, to make good their loss from fire should they suffer one?

    I predict that we will address none of these questions until a massive fire occurs, millions of dollars of houses are destroyed, and homeowners come to the state, tin cup in hand. The American Way is to socialize risk, bailing out people for their mistakes — whether they build in hurricane paths and seismic fault lines, or take out adjustable rate mortgages they can’t afford. And, in so doing, we encourage others to take even more risks in the expectation that they, too, will be bailed out.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    It truly is not about paying (or not paying) for locational costs. It is about who gets the political clout that lets them get away with imposing whatever they say are locational costs on whoever happens to live where some don’t think they should.

  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “Governments, of course, claim no responsibility for fires burning on public lands.”

    which is also false.

    the land that is burning if not mistaken is not owned by government or else we’d see the full resources of the Park Service and Forest Service in play, as do when places like Yellowstone and other public lands do catch fire.

    The point is.. whether you choose to live in an area suseptible to wildfire, floods, hurricanes, you should not expect other taxpayers to subsidize your decision.

    We blather on about affordable housing… for people in need.. but we already have substantial subsidies in place for – not the folks at the lower end – but for the middle class – the folks who buy second homes and homes in the “wild”.

    I’m not opposed to the middle class and I’m not opposed to folks who want to spend their money on more elaborate homes on land that is too expensive for many others.

    But I do object (and we all should) when those folks make those decisions – based on the belief that their “protection” is a public interest and should be paid for by other taxpayers – many of whom who cannot hope to afford the homes to be “protected”.

    If you want to live in a wildfire-suseptible area – band together to develop and implement and pay for – that infrastructure and policies that will deal with/mitigate the risk.

    For instance, HOA (or horrors government) codes could REQUIRE fire-hardened construction AND foam-fire suppression systems – and I’m betting that cheaper insurance would also be available as a result.

    I have a great deal of sympathy for the folks who lost their homes but they did have a choice as to where to live and what to do about an obvious threat.

    What I find interesting, is that after fires like this… the papers usually show a home in the middle that did not burn… because it had the systems to protect it.

    The problem is the idea that government should subsidize risk – not for those at the lower end of society – but for those who actually have the means to pay for it themselves but don’t want to.

    so the net result of this policy is to encourage and incentivize building in areas that are risky to loss of homes…

    For years and years, people built in flood plains because of government subsidized insurance where people who chose to not put a home in such a risky area were the ones who essentially paid the premiums of folks who did.

    … so .. we have folks..with an agenda .. who will claim that the refusal of people to protect their own property … is not the cause but rather environmentlist’s advocacy of “locking up land” is the cause.

    Isn’t a claim like this really a refusal to address the realities and instead to use events like this as yet another club further anti-environmentalism?

    Environmentalism has it’s problems but let’s try to be honest about the dialogue with respect to wildfires – which are basically about irresponsible behaviors.

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry wrote, “…let’s try to be honest about the dialogue with respect to wildfires – which are basically about irresponsible behaviors.”

    Like environmentalists and the government colluding to prevent logging and brush clearing.

  9. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Let’s say someone buys a homesite next to brushland that is not owned by the government nor by those awful environmentalists…

    whose responsibility is it to remove the brush?

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    I seem to recall a story about someone who removed the brush on his property and was fined for doing so because it was habitat for some mouse.

    If the mouse habitat and the human habitat are going to burn anyway………….

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    If you property is next door to brushland it’s a fair bet that somebody owns it.

    I they are not going to keep it clear, then they at least should object to you clearing enough to protect your home in an emergency.

  12. E M Risse Avatar

    “Not Ed Risse” and other anonymoui who are piling on are making fools of themselves.

    If the settlement pattern is dysfunctional it does not matter who owns the land, developed or not developed. No one can or will “pay for” a mitigation strategy. A pandering give-away perhaps but not a solution.

    Most people are aware that much of the vast public land holdings are not now well managed. It would be better managed if idologues were not undercutting governace practitioners with idology based political contribtuions and unfounded arguments.

    Much of the money available to manage common land — public or private — goes go to protecting urban structures (primary homes, second homes, scattered businesses etc.) in dysfunctional locations.

    Most people are aware of beneficial applications of private ownership of SOME undeveloped land. These benefits are limited to land that has an economic (market) value — timber rights, grazang rights, hunting rights, water rights, recreation visitation rights, etc.

    Undevelopeable hillsides of chaparel are of no value to a private owner and suggesting private ownership rather than functional settlement patterns are the answer insults the intelligence of Bacon’s Rebellion readers.

    Some would say “remove the building restrictions so the chaprel hillsides can be developed.” We say go ahead but those who devleop them need to pay the full cost of their actions including downhill property damage of mud slides that will result in the next rainy cycle. (You may have seen the pictures of the three lane road that slid just few weeks ago.)


  13. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    thousands.. hundreds of thousands of acres.. that is suseptible to wildfires .. AND subsequent flooding if the brush is cleared by the owner or by nature via fire?

    what if that guy did clear the brush at great person expense (why would he do this?) but let’s assume he did.. and then the rains came and a mudslide ensued and pushed your house over the side?

    I’ll bet you… you’d sue his pants off – in a heartbeat – right?

    See the point is.. that building in a high-risk area in the first place is YOUR responsibility – not someone elses…

    And you usually get a really big hint about this when you hear what the insurance premium is going to be –

    …and after you collect – guess what – you probably won’t be able to get coverage if you want to rebuild in the same spot.

    see .. the insurance company has no one else to blame it on.. they either learn the lesson or they go out of business…

    ask the folks who want to rebuild on the coasts… where they find insurance these days…

  14. E M Risse Avatar

    Here is a perfect example of why the anon posts are silly:

    “I they are not going to keep it clear, then they at least should object to you clearing enough to protect your home in an emergency.”

    To start with there is a missing “not” after “object” for the statement to make any sense.

    If “not” is incerted it demonstates the Geographic Illitercy of the poster.

    “I they are not going to keep it clear…


    “then they at least should NOT object to you clearing enough to protect your home in an emergency.


    There are no answers but functional human settlement patterns and a full allowcation location variale costs.

    Why is this important in Virginia? Beyond the reasons cited by Jim Bacon above, this sort of post is like a full Moon. It is a magnet for unfounded statements that idologues make when they understand that time is running out on Business-As-Usual.


  15. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    …”I they are not going to keep it clear, then they at least should object to you clearing enough to protect your home in an emergency.”

    let’s be clear.. we’re not talking about 2 acres of land across the street from your house. we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of acres of land that may be a mile away or more.. on top of a mountain up a gultch.. catches fire and showers embers on downwind structures.

    It would be cheaper to harden each home against wildfire than the cost to clear the land that could catch fire… and even if you cleared that land.. then you’d be at risk for subsequent mudslides.

    The issue is .. why would you build a home in an area that has such high risks in the first place?

    and who would want to live there in a hardened home AFTER wildfire and floods happen?

    who..buys homesites in harms way and why?

    I have sympathy.. that good judgement was the first casualty.

  16. E M Risse Avatar


    Sorry for the posting that overlaps.

    I hope everyone understands at this time.

    Over 8.4 mil acres burned this year, about 8.6 mil last year and about 8.3 mil the year before. All three are the highest numbers since records have been kept.


  17. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    EMR – The NYT had an article about water in the west and some scientists now think that the two major reservoirs on the Colorado – Glen Canyon and Hoover may not refill in our lifetimes and that other reservoirs throughout the west and into California may no longer receive the rainfall that they were designed for.

    Less rainfall means more forest fires .. and more chapparel fires… more fires… period.

    and no amount of air tankers will change the outcome..over the longer run – if the land becomes more arid on the whole.

    A similiar theme with less profound implications is to move way the heck out in the country – then complain about the inadequate commuting roads.

    There are more than a few of us – as my wife likes to say ..that “are not the sharpest knives in the drawer”. These folks don’t have well-defined “duh” moments.

  18. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Larry, I found that NYT magazine at Starbucks and managed to read about half of it before I had to leave. Yeah, the situation is crazy. Every droplet from the Colorado River is claimed before it reaches the sea. Westerners are sucking down aquifers, and snow caps are retreating in warmer weather, leading to reduced snow melt. Yet population continues to grow in the arid western states. With drastic change, it looks like vast stretches of the mountain states are heading for a Jared Diamond-style collapse.

    One thing that makes no sense whatsoever is giving extensive water rights to farmers. Say what? Raising crops in the most arid part of the country makes no friggin’ sense at all. Transferring water rights from farming to urban uses might postpone the inevitable. What those fools need to do is start charging people a market price for the water so people begin conserving.

  19. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    they will.

    the gloom and doom / tax&spend folks will bring on the spectre of dirty-faced kids starving because they can’t get affordable tomatoes or whatever…

    but in the end… our policies of selling a foot-acre of water of agriculture for a dollar or so while charging the homeowner hundreds or even a thousand or more will topple over of it’s own unsustainable weight…

    RH wil claim that they are entitled to their water rights but perhaps we’re going to find out if those rights include subsidies.

    but .. I’m not convinced that people will move away.. to other places… as long as water is available.

    I think what happens is that the folks who live there.. vote to get rid of the agricultural subsidies.
    (that’s what the article was speculating also).

  20. Lyle Solla-Yates Avatar
    Lyle Solla-Yates


    Am I correct that by a full allocation of location variable costs, you’re talking about what economists describe as capturing the full annual rent of land value? In other words, land holders paying their fair share for their locational benefits instead of riding free? If so, I agree, given that the full costs of transportation are also paid.

    Best Wishes,

    Lyle Solla-Yates

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    Ed, you are correct. I left out a word. Living in the digital hinterland, my typing gets ahead of the keyboard buffer and transfer rate. I can see how the error would be confusing. I’m sorry it left you addled.

    You guys are right, anytime a natural disaster destroys a place it is an ex post facto demonstration of poor planning and dysfunctional settlement patterns. We should evacuate all of California due to its many hazards and enlarge Yosemite by a few hundred million acres.

    Think of all the money we will save. Without California leading the way on pollution controls, the savings could be even larger.

    Those poor SOB’s who lived in Tunguska Siberia when the asteroid hit must have been the worst planners ever.

    And if fire is evidence of poor home sites, I guess that doesn’t say much for Chicago, San Farncisco, Charleston or Tisbury which were wiped out by fires.

    Half of those people who move out of the dangerous hillsides can move to LA where more people were killed in drive by shootings than were extinguished in the fire. At least you can see a fire coming.

    The other half can move to Arlington so they can ride the Metro.


    OK guys. Get off your collective high horses.

    Some places require that brush be cleared and others forbid it. No, clearing a little brush won’t prevent a major firestorm from throwing major limbs two miles, but it might be just enough to save one or two homes, if the limbs land in a cleared area.

    Yes, too much clearing can cause mudlsides.

    No, fireproofing your roof won’t help when 70 MPH winds are driving the embers horizontally.

    Yes, climate change may make some previous human activity seem ill advised, with 20 20 hindsight.

    No, there is not enough water in the west to support millions more without heroic water engineering.

    Yes, it can be done, and it might be cost effective.

    No, I never said water rights cannot or should not be taken away. Only that when promised rights are taken, just compensation should be paid.

    Yes, it might make more sense to grow vegetables near a huge market where there is lots of sun, even if you have to pump water, than it would to try to grow them with plenty of water and no sun, a thousand miles away.

    No, I don’t think the doom and gloom folks and the tax and spend folks are necessarily the same.

    Yes, transferring water rights to residential use might postpone the inevitable. What is the point of building all that stuff if the result is inevitable? Might be more cost effective to just grow vegetables. It’s a lot easier and less costly to abandon a farm than to build a town and then abandon it.

    No, I don’t think we will starve, when food becomes scarce the price will go up enough to make farming profitable without subsidies. Profits will bring more people into the business and preserve more land.

    Yes, I think we should have a three strikes and you are out rule: some places really are unsuitable for habitation.


  22. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    FYI: “Another way the rich are different: ‘concierge-level’ fire protection:

    RANCHO SANTA FE, CALIF. — Bryce Carrier’s cellphone rang at 3 a.m.: Help! The fire is almost to my house.

    Carrier hopped into his heavy-duty red Ford F-550 and sped … toward the multimillion-dollar home

    … he began applying Phos-Chek fire retardant along the perimeter of the property, the shrubs and the roof. When the flames hit the milky white liquid, they stopped.

    Carrier is a certified firefighter, but he doesn’t work for a government agency. He’s an employee of Firebreak Spray Systems, which partners with the insurance company American International Group Inc. to protect the mansions of the moneyed.
    Carrier and his 15 crew mates sprayed retardant on and around more than 160 homes in Malibu, Lake Arrowhead and the hardest-hit areas of Orange and San Diego counties this week. They claim to have saved a dozen homes.,0,3352683.story?coll=la-home-center

    What is the moral of this story?

    Pretty simple, if you want to live in a high risk area, you need to be prepared to buy an equivalent level of protection.

    Think about this a slightly different way. The folks who do not have this coverage – why don’t they?

    When you clear out all the clutter, what you have is folks who want to build houses on the cheap and have taxpayers bail them out if disaster strikes.

    California, mortgage lenders and insurers, could, at any time, institute building codes and standards that require fire protection systems as a condition of obtaining an occupancy permit.

    If the west is getting drier – as the scientists think it may be, then fires like this, could become an annual occurence.

    Yeah.. we could clear cut anything that resembles “fuel”… but then shouldn’t the cost of clearing land be allocated to the folks who need that done and second, would foam suppression per house be cheaper that clear cutting millions of acres?

    Finally, virtually none of these homes that have burned could be classified as “affordable housing”. We are not talking about folks who can barely afford an apartment or have to live in a trailer park.

    The “burning” question, excuse the pun – is what should public policy be with regard to building homes in obviously risky areas?

    We took a sane approach to this with the subsidize flood insurance program.

    Everyone get’s one bit at the apple. Your FIRST loss is covered in full. Your next loss, if you choose to rebuilt in the same place is not.

    even this is ridiculous if you think about it… The banks would not lend a mortgate if the insurers would not insure – so the Feds step in .. with taxpayer dollars to “protect” the banks who… make money off of mortgages.

    Is this what should be done with settlement patterns on steep slopes where chapparel grows?

    Should all taxpayers, many of which could not afford to live for one day in some of the homes threatened by wildfire – pay to help insure those homes?

  23. Anonymous Avatar

    You think we would have any nuclear power, if they had to buy their own insurance?

    The question isn’t whether the government should subsidize these efforts from a philosphical or ethical standpoint. It is whether the subsidy provides a sufficiently valuable return to to the government for its cost. That return may have little relationship to the value of the property protected. It might be that protecting valuable homes is more valuable than protecting cheap ones.

    To insure things that are just crazy does not appear to make sense, and the first time we blow up a nuclear plant someone will come forward to point out how crazy it was.

    So what is the answer? If we build nothing out there, the place will burn anyway. If we really build a lot of stuff, there won’t be enough to burn. We can’t even say this is a natural disaster, because some of it may have been deliberately set.

    There are millions of homes out there. Some burned and some didn’t. Where Andrew hit, almost nothing survived. What do we learn from all this?

    I think what we learn is that it is hard to know. But, usually in accident investigations we figure if it happens once, its an accident. If it happens twice, then it is someone’s fault.

  24. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    …”protecting valuable homes is more valuable than protecting cheap ones.”


    .. meaning… all those smucks
    who live in trailer parks and other modest housing – should pay taxes to subsidize homeowners insurance for the wealthy so they can go build on steep hillsides with chapparel brush?

    This is a whole new angle… instead of “trickle down”.. it is “trickle up”. cool!

    actually now that I think about it.. isn’t this the way the King of England did business?

  25. Anonymous Avatar

    …”protecting valuable homes is more valuable than protecting cheap ones.”

    Not what I said.

    What I said was “It might be that…”

    Use ellipses to excise only that which is extraneous. Please don’t put words in my mouth or deliberately change meanings.


    AS to the rest of your comment, no.

    IF IF and IF, the government can show that it is actually a better return on their investment, then the poor schmucks are not subsidizing the wealthy, AND they would be paying more taxes if the government was not spending its money so wisely.

    The county sends two fire trucks (the same distance) to two fires. Both fires cause $50k in damages. One fire is in a $100,000 home and one is in a $700,000 home.

    As far as the county is concerned, which fire trip was a better value?

    By saving the revenue the $700,000 home throws off the county avoids having to increase taxes (just a little tiny bit) on the people you call schmucks.

    It is still trickle down. It is part of why the county says any home valued at less than $750,000 is a money loser for the county.

    Obviously, the thing to do is make sure everybody in the county earns enough to afford such a home. That way all services will be more efficient.

    Let’s give a raise to all schoolteachers and troopers.

  26. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    The government does not even need to get involved at all,

    A fire district can be set up and each homeowner is assessed a fee based on the value of their home.

    You could even have different levels of services taylored to each customers needs and budget.

    No different from cable or phone or many other services.

    You pays your annual dues and you get your fire service whether you are a smuck or a well-to-do.

  27. Anonymous Avatar

    “The government does not even need to get involved at all.”

    Oh, I agree, lets get rid of it and hire Blackwater. No zoning, just hired thugs to protect your property.

    But then, thugs have no interest in stepping beyond your property: thugs at least understand the concept of turf.


  28. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: thugs and “security”

    Many do choose to pay
    for enhanced security above and beyond what their taxes provide for (but private security in this country is not allowed to function as an unregulated militia).

    Your taxes do pay for specified level of service rendered to all other taxpayers for the same fee.

    And that includes fire protection.

    You get the standard level of service that everyone else gets for the same taxes.

    AND … it REQUIRES you to equip your structure per code… at your own cost… as part of the agreement to provide you with fire services. This is why you need an OP and it is also the reason why the fire department can inspect your premises.

    If you choose to live in riskier circumstances – you are not entitled to more expensive services because you “had no choice”. You are, in fact, entitled only to the same service that others get for the same taxes.

    If you feel that the levels of service are inadequate for your own needs – you have a personal responsibility to deal with it with your own funds.

    For instance, ome folks buy their own electric generators but they do not expect them to be provided as an additional free service not provided to other customers.

    Apparently some folks think is that for the same electric bill – that they are also entitled to backup generators for free – if the government was providing the service instead.

    If one chooses to live in an area that has known obvious hazards (like wildfires or floods) and feels that the standard taxpayer fee for service does not provide the desired level of service …

    We went through this with floods and it still continues to be a problem because.. people want to build where floods are known to occur but instead of accepting personal responsibility for their decisions – they want others to pay for their losses.

    When the insurance companies refuse to cover them..then they advocate for the government to pick up the costs.

  29. Anonymous Avatar

    “If you choose to live in riskier circumstances – you are not entitled to more expensive services because you “had no choice”. You are, in fact, entitled only to the same service that others get for the same taxes.”

    Agreed. But then others should not argue that you should not have the right to choose to live in risky places.

    “You get the standard level of service that everyone else gets for the same taxes.”

    Agreed. But then others should not argue that giving you that service somehow increases their costs, risks, and aggravation, and that therefore you have no right to get that same level of services.


  30. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I don’t think most folks are opposed to people living in risky locales – as long as they accept the financial consequences of doing so.. and that includes building homes on the cheap.. in these areas where instead, extra protection should be paid for upfront.

    This is a pretty simple calculation anyhow in most situations because the availability or lack of availability of insurance plays an important role.

    In these risky areas, insurance is much higher even with extra expensive measures also paid for by the owner.

    The government made a big mistake subsidizing flood insurance. It ought not repeat that mistake for these other.. clearly risky areas.

    Let the insurance companies decide what the premiums should cost and let people decide what they can afford for both houes and insurance and let it go at that.

  31. E M Risse Avatar

    One last note:

    In today’s (29 Oct Page A7) WaPo Karl Vick and Sonya Geis do it agin.

    Great story “In Fires’ Ruins, Lessons in Prevention.”

    Unless you have a grasp of the organic components of human settlement pattern you will not understand how improtant this story is.

    Also as a follow up: the majority of the houses in Green Valley Lake have turned out to have burned after the fire crews were removed last Monday night because it was too dangerous. (See comment in Vick / Geis story re how the Austrailians handle this situation.)

    There is apparently no governace structure in Green Valley Lake, it is just a little part of the biggest County in the USA. Sort of like a orphan subdivision in Fairfax County.

    To understand why that is important see today’s column re energy conservation and the Reston Plaza which is much more than an orphan subdivision.


  32. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    EMR – I think you do have insight that I lack. The problem is that I apparently lack the mental horsepower to grasp it.

    I was taught two things if one was a citizen working for change:

    1. – know who it is that has in their hands the power to make decision that you want made

    2. – have a short, clear and compelling message to give to the decision-makers.

    As of this point.. I do not know who to go to nor what to tell them and so.. fundamental change is (to me) more an exericise in wonkology that a recipe that can be used to promote change.

    Is fundamental change going to result from the plethora of “smart/green” multi use TNDs?

    If not.. what should developers be shooting for?

    What should citizens be advocating and to whom to win over at least some developers to attempt best-practice model projects?

    I realize that these questions are probably hardballs and not fatballs but they are very well-intentioned… and a clear desire for a better understanding.

    For instance, you advocate integrated neighborhood untilities which apparently involves recylcing and recapture of excess energy (I cannot remember the acronym).

    What are the benchmarks for Greenfield multi-use/TND/Smart Growth developments?

    ..OR.. can those developments never be fundamental change unless their location is also “correct”?

    Finally.. when it comes to water/sewer, powerlines, and primary fuel – it would appear to be that geography places a huge role in “green/smart” settlement patterns.

    If in a given area, there is a finite availability of fresh water and a limit on how much sewage can be discharged… and where fuel comes from if not within the settlement itself; all of these things are dictated to a certain extent by geography and availability/finiteness of locally available resources.

    In other words.. plopping down a community where the jobs are or vice versa cannot ignore geography.

    or is the assumption that it CAN if the development recylces .. for instance ALL of it’s water in a closed system?

    So.. if two developments are proposed and one has a total recycle utility system and one does not – is that .. fundamental change?

  33. E M Risse Avatar

    Larry, thank you for the note.

    I owe you a thousand answers but have to keep on track to get done what I need to do.

    I hope “The Estates Martix” will help you sort out some of these issues.


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