Tag Archives: fire

For the Restaurants-To-Visit List

Arc is emphatically one of the most important restaurants to open in America this decade. Everything at Arc is cooked over live fire, either on the grill, which is fueled with orange wood, or in the brick hearth, which is fueled by almond. The restaurant does not have a conventional range or oven. There is no sautéing, no frying, no sous-vide machine, no salamander, no ice cream maker. Nothing but smoldering charcoal. Anything and everything that gets cooked, gets cooked over wood. Period. The only gas line is on the roof, connected to the water heaters.”  — Brad A. Johnson in OC Register.

Fires and Floods

Moving from the urban environment of Baltimore to the wilds of North Idaho meant learning a lot of new environmental issues. And moving from the inland northwest to the SoCal coast brings yet another set of learning curves. A lot of things are the same — the need for non-profit fundraising, for example, is universal — but there are issue similarities that I hadn’t expected. The intersection of climate change impacts and local land use regulation is remarkably similar in communities that couldn’t be more different.

In North Idaho, and throughout the forested Rockies, climate-induced wildfire is an increasing threat to rural residents. Fires are larger, more frequent and more intense, and costs to  governments, property owners and their insurers are mounting. Meanwhile, along the coasts, extreme-weather storms, with damaging wind and rain and storm surge, are also larger, more frequent and more intense. And costs to governments, property owners and their insurers are also mounting.

And interestingly, both locations could stand to learn from one another.  For example. as coastal communities consider “managed retreat” from the increasingly problematic proximity to rising sea levels, so too should rural communities reconsider isolated development in the fire-dangerous wildland urban interface.

The excellent Bozeman-based Headwaters Economics research organization came up with some good advice to western communities worried about fire that could be just as useful to coastal communities worried about storms. According to Headwaters Economics, “Addressing the issue of ever-escalating fire suppression expenses could achieve a number of related public policy goals: increasing fiscal responsibility, introducing a fairer and more equitable distribution of those costs among those benefiting from wildfire protection, and improving the safety of future homeowners and wildland firefighters.” Change “fire suppression” to “storm surge mitigation,” change “wildfire protection” to “flood protection” and “wildland firefighters” to a more general “first responders” and the similarities are clear.

A Headwaters report (pdf) offers ten ideas for controlling the rising cost of protecting homes from wildland fires. Most are entirely applicable to coastal communities dealing with storm-related flooding:

  1. Mapping: Publish Maps Identifying Areas with High Probability of Wildland Fires.

  2. Education: Increase Awareness of the Financial Consequences of Home Building in Fire-Prone Areas.

  3. Redirecting Federal Aid towards Land Use Planning: Provide Technical Assistance and Financial Incentives to Help Local Governments Direct Future Development Away from the Wildland-Urban Interface.

  4. Cost Share Agreements: Add Incentives for Counties to Sign Agreements that Share the Costs of Wildland Firefighting between Local and Federal Entities.

  5. Land Acquisition: Purchase Lands or Easements on Lands that are Fire-Prone and at Risk of Conversion to Development.

  6. A National Fire Insurance and Mortgage Program: Apply Lessons from Efforts to Prevent Development in Floodplains.

  7. Insurance: Allow Insurance Companies to Charge Higher Premiums in Fire-Prone Areas.

  8. Zoning: Limit Development in the Wildland-Urban Interface with Local Planning and Zoning Ordinances.

  9. Eliminate Mortgage Interest Deductions:Eliminate Home Interest Mortgage Deductions for New Homes in the Wildland-Urban Interface.

  10. Reduce Federal Firefighting Budgets: Induce Federal Land Managers to Shift More of the Cost of Wildland Firefighting to Local Governments.

Again, by just swapping out a few words and phrases, this could be an impressively robust agenda for coasts. As we develop a work plan for coastal development issues at Coastal Conservation Network, this list might be an interesting starting point.