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Flame and Fortune in the American WestUrban Development, Environmental Change, and the Great Oakland Hills Fire$
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Gregory L. Simon

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780520292802

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520292802.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 26 October 2020

Debates of Distraction

Debates of Distraction

Our Inability to See the Incendiary for the Spark

(p.130) 7 Debates of Distraction
Flame and Fortune in the American West

Gregory L. Simon

University of California Press

This chapter presents two debates that illustrate how key decision-makers become mired in ideologically contentious disagreements, and how these issues distract nearly all parties from directly addressing the systemic causes of fire risk at the wildland-urban interface. A first example explores contemporary debates over eucalyptus management in the Oakland and Berkeley hills. Disagreements over the flammability of eucalyptus and their nonnative status divert attention away from broader social processes: mechanisms of development that actually drive fire vulnerability (and the premise of these very debates) in the first place. A second case explores yet another ideological battleground, this time pitting private property rights advocates concerned with controlling their own fire protection against those advocating for greater public agency involvement. City fire mitigation fees have produced a contentious proxy debate that forestalls other important discussions, such as whether to build more homes at all and whether to shift fire mitigation efforts from adaptation to growth minimization.

Keywords:   wildland-urban interface, eucalyptus management, fire vulnerability, property rights, fire protection, fire mitigation fees, Oakland Hills Tunnel Fire

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