The shock of seeing a portion of one of the oldest establishments in town, Oakhurst Lodge, burn to the ground on the morning news last week brought tears to my eyes. I recall sitting on the patio of the Big Foot Burger Pit admiring the ongoing landscape projects the manager/owner continually added to. He would freshen the place up every year with a new coat of paint and he took care of every detail.
It is terrible to lose yet another of our landmark structures, yet it was more disturbing to hear a Fresno newscaster speak of them allowing the structure to burn to the ground due to low water supplies in our town's water storage. If the report was accurate, I must admit her words filled me with a good dose of fear. If our town hasn't the supply to fight one structure fire, what is to happen if we are faced with a threat to the entire town? Pull out your garden hoses neighbors, it seems we are on our own.
Do we not remember the horrific Harlow fire of 1961?
If a decision was made to back off the fire, and not fight it more aggressively, to keep from taking water from the town supplies, it raises questions. With such high rates of fire incidence in the local area, why isn't there water storage specifically set aside for this precise occurrence? We have a multi-million water treatment plant supplying our town with water that so graciously comes with warnings of high levels of arsenic, uranium and gross alpha toxicity, among other cancer instigating agents more often than not.
Why is it that this is acceptable, though no allowance for fire protection measures has been set in place? The county engineers could probably get just as much funding for some sort of backup water storage as they received for the water treatment plant -- and we would all be safer. It only makes sense to have a plan in place so that our fire crews have the resources to do their jobs, doesn't it?
A water tower would pose no threat to the environment, and even possibly enhance it as the faster a fire is extinguished, the less pollution is displaced into our clean mountain air.
To add insult to injury, most of us living in the surrounding area were nailed with a state sanctioned auxiliary fire fee this past year of $150 per habitable structure. Those in town were not charged though we all utilize Cal Fire just the same. As well, we are expected to have a clearing of 100 feet around all structures at our expense, and in some areas, a minimum of 2,500 gallons of water storage available on property that is accessible to Cal Fire.
For those of us that live on gated ranches and properties, that means adding a $300 emergency access lock box to spare our gates sudden death. What is the point in all this if there is no water available?
With the county practically begging new business to move into the area, it would be logical that we supply adequate infastructure to offer the best measure of protection as possible. It would seem an important selling point to have clean, fresh water to drink and bathe in, as well as water for emergencies such as this.
My stomach twisted hearing that there were 30 firefighters on scene and at times during the fire, no water was going on the building. What is wrong with this picture? With no water, what is the point of all those fire crews being on scene?
What kind of catastrophe has to come to bring enough pressure to bear so that our county supervisors and state legislators wake up and provide our community with necessary means to protect ourselves from such disasters?
Perhaps things would be different if the flames were licking at their back door.