Antonia Bradford PhotographyColumn: Antonia Bradford Letters Local News 

Letter: Fire Safety and Prevention

Dear Bruce McPherson and fellow county supervisors,

I write to you today as a woman who lost her home in the CZU fire. I am a proud San Lorenzo Valley citizen who is active in her community and is committed to rebuilding her home for her family which includes five children. As I wade through the immense costs and bureaucratic nightmare that is building in Santa Cruz County there is a huge topic that I see the county being radio silent on: fire prevention, education, and preparedness. This needs to be a cornerstone to our recovery efforts yet it seems to be entirely left out of the conversation.

Yesterday evening I read the article in Good Times that was published after the Grand Jury report was released regarding the immense risk to our area for a catastrophic fire. The findings of the report, which I knew nothing of until after my family lost everything, was an epic foreshadowing of what was to come. One thing is very clear, when it comes to being proactive with fire prevention and fire recovery Santa Cruz County has failed the citizens of the San Lorenzo Valley and our coastal neighbors of Bonny Doon and surrounding areas miserably. And it has cost almost a thousand families everything we own.

In this article Bruce, your analyst Gine Johnson states that wildfires are a top concern for you and your office since your district encompasses the entire San Lorenzo Valley. How are you addressing that concern? What are you and the other supervisors doing beyond potentially denying people the right to rebuild on their land because of fire department accessibility issues to address this concern?

We need to be proactive, not reactive.

Luck favors the prepared as they say. So what will we do collectively to mitigate the risk of this happening again? We heard from Cal Fire in those two meetings that the main issue was resources. There just wasn’t enough. I would love to know why those resources were allocated in the ways they were. Who made those calls? With such limited resources why isn’t there a focus on enforcing the maintenance of landowners properties? If they can’t afford it, what can the county do? Why doesn’t the county know where the vulnerable points of PG&E’s antiquated and outdated infrastructure that pose immense fire risks to our mountains?

And here is the thing, this isn’t something that just fire victims should be asking. While I am now starkly aware of the shortcomings of the county when it comes to fire safety and prevention, others are living in sweet naiveteé as life returns to normal for them. The smoke of the CZU fire has cleared, people are mostly back home and the hum of normalcy for many is ringing in the air. You don’t think this can happen to you, until it does. This is hands down the worst thing I have ever experienced and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, much less my fellow citizens of this mountain community. We need to collaborate within our communities and our governmental agencies to lower our risk to life, property and the environment.

So what is the county’s plan? I would love it if that deafening silence was replaced with action and dialogue within the community. I know San Lorenzo Valley doesn’t have as much money or prestige as Santa Cruz or Scotts Valley and lacks political representation, but our families deserve, and quite frankly pay for, proper representation and advocacy for our safety and well being. We matter, and its time Santa Cruz County started acting like it.

Antonia Bradford
Boulder Creek Resident and Fire Victim
SLV Support Group for Home Loss-CZU Lightning Complex fires

Photo by Antonia Bradford

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3 Thoughts to “Letter: Fire Safety and Prevention”

  1. Steve Homan

    Thank you, Antonia. Your letter is reasonable, well stated, and it all rings true.

    What is the County plan? What is the Cal Fire plan. Will be be left alone to burn again, next time?

    I have little faith in Cal Fire Administration. The Firefighters do their job when they are present and when they receive the proper orders. We were twice burned out: First, by lightning caused ground level fires mostly, and Second, by Cal Fire Administration incompetence and malfeasance.

  2. Barbara Lockwood

    I am shocked daily as I read the incredible struggles of so many fire victims. They are repeatedly being slapped in the face by the county. One lady is told her insurance will not pay if she’s living in her partially damaged home, So she is forced to live in a trailer in her front yard. Yet her neighbor down the street is told it’s illegal to live in a trailer on her own property. And she can’t live in a yurt. It is adding insult to injury every time these people try to request services, or permits, or even get people to answer the telephone.
    Early news reports had public officials saying they would work with the fire victims and try to expedite things and help them get back on their land, but it doesn’t appear that those were honest hopeful promises. They keep jumping over hurdles daily and hearing of increased costs on everything. Some of them are afraid to buy clothing because they don’t know if they will have enough money for building permits, yet Monterey county is being so generous and waiving fees for building permits. Could we not at least give them a fire discount of 50%?

    This is not a time to fill county coffers by putting these financial stress is on these people. So many will be forced to build 1/4 of the home they previously knew and loved. Because negotiations with agencies and the county offices have been so difficult and frustrating a good percentage of them are choosing to not rebuild and feel like they are being forced out of California.

  3. christopher copeland

    Barbara, Monterrey County did not waive fees. This is an urban myth. They did agree to postpone collecting fees, but they still want to be pain in full. I agree that Santa Cruz County has been appalling. The first problem is that they are treating homeowner as if they were developers, not folks who are trying to replace their homes destroyed in the fire

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