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Scene at observatory

The Griffith Observatory offered a view like no other in the wake of the fire.

To the north and east, hills yesterday covered with trees and brush had been transformed into a barren landscape. The eastern half of Mt. Hollywood burned, but the western side was still an olive green. The view down to the Roosevelt golf course offers another lesson. Tree along course that received irrigation remain strong and bright green. Trees closer to the hills were blackened.

-Rong-Gong Lin II


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While it's true that irrigating non-native trees does keep them green, it a) wastes a lot of water, b) native California trees are actually KILLED by overwatering; c) the chapparal is supposed to burn periodically (although the fires are supposed to be started by lightening strikes, not cigarettes). The lesson to take away from this fire is not that we should just irrigate the hell out of everything all the time, but rather get used to the notion that we live in a region that *has fires*. This is like people complaining when they build their houses on cliffs that get washed down in mudslides - duh, don't build your house on a cliff if you don't like it. We all accept the risks of earthquakes here in Southern California, and wildfires are also part of the territory. The lesson ought to be don't smoke when it's fire season (duh), and use native plants that are naturally drought-tolerant near your home if you live on the edge of the chapparal.

To reduce fires, planting large oaks on the perimeter of your land that provide shade (which can then support natives irises, snowberries, hummingbird sage, etc.) is the best way to reduce fire risk. The shade is cooler, and the shade-loving natives are moister while still being more water-efficient than non-natives. Also don't have a wood roof (duh). Check out the Theodore Payne Foundation (www.theodorepayne.org), the LA Department of Water & Power, and the Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery (www.laspilitas.com) for suggestions on fire-proof landscaping.

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