Fire Flap

Okay, so Sanders and Aguirre disagree on what to do with state and city recommendations on creating stricter building code standards for homes in San Diego’s now well-proven fire-prone areas. Aguirre thinks such standards should be applied to all residences, those currently existing and those which are still but a twinkle in a developer’s eye. Sanders has balked, opposing retroactively applying such regulations to existing home owners. And legal experts say Aguirre may be off base in proposing to do so. Trying to enforce new fire codes on existing homes is a likely first-class ticket to the courts.

There goes that whacky old Mike again, making policy recommendations he isn’t charged to do that are legally dubious at best, politically disastrous at worst. And, once again, Aguirre is also right in what he’s advocating, even as the slings and arrows of the Mayor rain down upon him.

He may not be politically right, calling on home owners who have a good chance of being burned out in what, given global warming, will probably become even more frequent wildfires gone wild to take proactive steps now to prevent catastrophic loss later. It’s the classic short-term thinking free rider program. What homeowner wants to willingly shell out money now for a fire that may or may not (read “Will”) come later? Especially if the government can be relied on to rush in and spend whatever it takes to protect whoever needs protecting despite how little they’ve done to protect themselves?

This is America, dammit, where people are free to make any dumbass decision they want and expect everyone else, through the instrument of the state, to shoulder the cost. And Sanders, facing an unexpectedly contested reelection campaign, isn’t about to put the slightest pressure on a volatile electorate, public safety and common sense be damned. Interesting that, also facing a significant electoral challenge, Aguirre doesn’t flinch from pursuing what he thinks is good policy and plain common sense.

You see fire is a funny thing – it don’t give a wit if the house it’s chewing on is new construction or old, Your house gets in the way of it—be it a home in a brand new development or an old, established community, the fire dragon will eat it up and spit out the ash. What about the last two great fires don’t people get? So exempting any home in a fire-prone zone from upgrading to higher safety standards is going to result, when the next big one comes, in either more houses burning than should have or a bigger cost to our firefighting budgets—and potential lives of firemen—than should be, or both. My bet is on the later.

It seems likely the legal experts are right — attempting to do what Aguirre calls for and retrofit all homes for fire safety may be illegal under current law and will certainly draw legal challenges. So how about our local state legislators get off the stick and change said laws, indemnifying the City from challenges and damages in enforcing the sorts of fire codes we should have adopted decades ago in the first place? Then the messy business of making people do what is good for themselves and not push the cost of their inaction off onto everyone else can be addressed.

And if the Mayor and City Council don’t like the City Attorney crossing lines and usurping their legislative prerogative, then how about they get of the stick, too, and take real steps—potentially politically painful ones—to protect the people of San Diego from the inevitable next inferno.

But that Aguirre, man. Wanting to guarantee every home is adequately prepared to deal with the next fire. What a nutjob.

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