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Terrorism and fire



Every day there are more warnings about possible terrorist attacks; the last concerned the threat from the thousands of containers shipped to the US each day, I have seen no reference to an obvious possibility: incendiarism. As in the case of the fire which threatened Sydney, Australia, there is always a search for incendiaries. A major fire has just hit the area just north of San Diego, in the neighborhood of an army base. How it started is not clear. Havoc could be created if this summer, all around the US, fires were started by terrorists or disgruntled Americans sympathetic to their cause.

Universities and colleges are a special case. There are thousands of foreign students here, mostly bona fide but some in defiance of immigration laws. From where I am sitting I can see the Stanford foothills, already going brown. A few years ago they went up in flames, and there were fears that the university residential area would be involved. At the time I pointed out that if there were buildings there, with the usual water system, the threat of fires would be lessened. The buildings could be hidden by trees, so the landscape would not loose its attraction. Could someone tell us what trees would be most resistant to the threat of fire? Redwoods? They were once abundant in this area.

The university wants to build academic buildings in the area, but they are confronted by bellicose outsiders who want to preserve the foothills in their pristine condition so that they may have a place to jog or walk their pooches. Surely some compromise could be found. In any case, now is the time to prepare against widespread fires set by malicious or insane individuals.

Ronald Hilton - 2/12/02


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