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Last October, my family and I stood on our back deck and watched a wall of flames racing down Atlas Peak at 30 miles per hour. Moments later, we were running for our lives, leaving behind much of value.

Three days later, we were able to go back and view the pile of ashes that was our home of 30 years. I also lived there in 1981 when a similar blaze swept over 35,000 acres, destroying many homes.

In the days that have followed, I have spent time thinking about how we can better protect ourselves from these disasters. I would like to share some of my thoughts on this matter.

Adoption of Measure C will make wildfires more likely and harder to stop. I would like to explain why i think this and propose some preferable alternatives.

Are oak forests endangered eco systems? Oak forests are not endangered eco systems. The majority of the acreage of Napa County is covered with oak forest and there is no indication that this will change significantly.

Are wildfires natural and beneficial? Small occasional wildfires are natural and beneficial. If wildfires are too large, wildlife cannot avoid them and escape. Also, if wildfires are too big and hot, they destroy big trees that take hundreds of years to replace. The bigger and hotter the fire, the more subsequent soil erosion is a danger. Huge fires can damage ecosystems to the extent that they require many decades to heal.

Can and should we strive to keep wildfires small and local? We can and we should. Small localized fires replenish the soil nutrients with minimal damage to large old trees and minimal erosion.

Who and what are vulnerable to wildfires? Humans are not the most vulnerable victims of wildfires. Wildlife and plant life are. Post-fire soil erosion is also increased, damaging ecosystems all the way into the bay and ocean.

How can we strive to keep wildfires small and local? We can allow the creation of fire break zones that would slow or stop fires. We can also empower the fire prevention authorities to do more controlled burns.

How do we make this happen?

We could do the following:

-- Create barriers to fires by creating buffer zones that slow or stop fires such as parks with open fields, water features such as lakes, pasture lands, orchards, vineyards, and other crop lands.

-- Ensure that such buffer zones are accessible by good roads that would allow firefighters quick and safe access.

-- Ensure that most such buffer zones include lakes that would provide water sources to firefighters. These lakes can double as water sources for the agricultural uses, and can be designed to help replenish and enhance down-stream ground water supplies.

If you agree with these concepts, and would like to make them happen, please do the following:

-- Vote 'no' on the misguided Measure C. This measure would prevent implementation of such a fire prevention plan.

Join me and others to make these beneficial actions happen. If you would like to help, please send your contact information to

William Hill


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