Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Quench the burning question

    It became clear during the Beaver Creek Fire that homes with rooftops made of wooden shakes were at far higher risk of catching fire than others with either metal roofs or Class A asphalt shingles. It was also clear that homes at some distance from the fire were at risk because of hot embers that blew miles ahead of it.
    The burning question that remains is whether elected officials in Blaine County and the cities that have not yet prohibited the use of such shingles in new construc-tion will put prohibitions in place at last.
    The only home that burned down in the fire had a shake roof, and if firefighters had not fought valiantly, others like it would have burned as well.
    Ketchum Fire Chief Mike Elle’s crews fought to protect homes in Greenhorn Gulch. After the fire, he said he would work hard to get rid of the wood-shake option for roofing. He shouldn’t have to because it should be a no-brainer. How-ever, memories are short.
    Whenever the question came up in the past, wood-shake manufacturers testified that wood shakes could be made to be fire resistant and that jurisdictions that ban them would interfere in the marketplace. People who object to government regula-tion in general showed up and claimed that no one should be able to tell them what to do on their private property. Some architects and developers objected be-cause they said fire-safe roofing is ugly.
    The Sun Valley area rises from a high-desert plain and its forests are largely lodgepole pine and fir interspersed with sage, not the rainforests of the Northwest where wood shakes are not as dangerous.
    It’s past time for local elected officials to acknowledge the danger, plan for wild-fires, refuse to be cowed and ban wood-shake shingles on new construction.

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