As a resident and native of San Diego County, I have to say that the fires we've experienced this century are a result not of increased population but of Mother Nature at her worst [Nov. 5]. We're very grateful that the loss of life was far less this time than in previous fires. I praise the local authorities for using reverse-911 calls and making sure people were out of harm's way. Nevertheless, there was a lot of property damage, thanks to the Santa Ana winds and very dry conditions. You cannot win against Mother Nature whether you're confronting hurricanes in the East or fires and earthquakes in the West. You can only do your best to save people and the things that are important to them.
Janet LeClainche, LAKESIDE, CALIF., U.S.
Why is anyone permitted to build where wildfires are inevitable? If so many people just have to live there, they should live in mobile homes that they could move in case of fire. I know this wouldn't solve every problem and some mobile homes might be lost, but it would seem sensible to prohibit the construction of permanent structures in such areas.
Colin Kreitzer, HARRISBURG, PA., U.S.
The sheer arrogance of the article about California's fires was astounding. So we should not live in fire-prone areas? Perhaps people in New England shouldn't live in snow-prone areas, people in the Midwest shouldn't live in tornado-prone areas, and people in the Southeast shouldn't live in hurricane-prone areas. Storms in other parts of the U.S. cause far more deaths, injuries and economic losses every year than the relatively infrequent major fires in California do. Perhaps you can suggest a spot on the planet where we can all live free of risk.
Joseph Leaser, OCEANSIDE, CALIF., U.S.
When the swimming pools are dry and the golf courses are brown, then and only then will I be convinced that the people living in the Southwest are serious about resolving ecological problems. Meanwhile, we'll keep on subsidizing their peccadilloes.
George Young, VANCOUVER, WASH., U.S.
Brick and masonry homes with metal framing do not burn. Wood is the culprit the fuel for fire. Building-permit rules should disallow the use of wood in all new construction. Communities in fire-prone areas should also think about stocking forested and undeveloped lands with goats. These creatures could devour the underbrush that dries and fuels firestorms. Firefighters could better spend their time tending the goats than periodically risking their lives on uncontrolled fires. The goats could become part of the firefighters' arsenal, as important as trucks, hoses and protective gear. Incentives from insurance companies could help defray the added costs of masonry-and-metal construction as Californians rebuild. With fewer fires in the future, insurance companies would stand to profit substantially.
Paul A. Winder, FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA., U.S.
I can imagine the near impossibility of culling from a mountain of great photos the one image that reveals the essence of a harrowing story that took days to convey in newspapers and on radio and TV. But the cover picture of a lone firefighter kneeling to check a fire-hose connection against the background of a tree erupting in a ball of flame summed up Californians' frustration and helplessness. The Dantesque orange glow bathing the entire scene imparted a netherworld aura to the image and gave me the uncomfortable feeling that there was no escape. I was arrested by a stark sense of the anguish and loss that those fires caused but even more by the primal insecurities that are aroused whenever we confront such unpredictability in nature. That was one of the best covers TIME has ever produced.
Kenneth E. Kilpatrick, NORTHVILLE, MICH., U.S.