A Solution. We, the members of the Vegetation Management Video Project Committee, propose a video designed to educate, motivate and entertain on the subject of fire safety, urban firestorms, and related environmental issues in the fervent belief that we can prevent a repeat performance of this disaster. We believe that even a culture dedicated to the domination of nature, has elected leaders who can yield to precision logic, when good thinking is paired with beautiful art. All that we have to do is to help them find a way to say, "Yes!"

The Purpose Of This Site. This web site serves several functions. First of all, this web site is meant to be good food for thought for free thinkers, non-experts and homeowners and we hope you enjoy it.... and put to use the lessons contained in the script. If you are fortunate enough to be a homeowner or just rent a nice place in the hills then please let us know what changes to your home and landscaping this site has inspired you to make. If you are a still a student and dreams of country living are far off in the distant future then feel free to make this page your jumping off point anyway for successful web surfing. Help yourself to the numerous web resources that are essential for a successful semester. This site was also designed to serve the author as an electronic supplement to hard copy grant proposals that he has already mailed off to foundations and corporations. (It saves on postage.) Ultimately, this site will be an electronic briefing package for the video project volunteers when our funding does arrive. (With the aid of this web site we'll be the paperless movie crew and you'll see us film this project in a weekend.) These are mbitious goals for a web site. But thanks to the power of HTML and the web, the members of this committee believe we have been able to assemble and contribute a major piece to the overall disaster prevention puzzle for the benefit of the people of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Words on this page highlighted in blue are links to other web sites on the internet. Feel free to sample the smorgasborg of cool sites on the web but don't forget where you started. Like a good buffet table the most incredible dishes are still to come. Before you click away to one of the more than 100 links sprinkled through the text please book mark this site!

What to Expect. The Cannonball Express will be a short video about the power of mother nature, best friends, last chances and redemption. In our story, an irresponsible husband (Jessie) buys a house in the hills. Desperate to save his shaky marriage and protect their home from fire, he seeks help from an old friend (Cliff), while his wife (Helen) shops. With these characters and a rugged friend of Cliff's, plus some spectacular scenery in 256 shades of green, we will create a visually compelling docudrama that grabs the attention of the audience.

The Agenda. The author has chosen an approach based on realism and cinema verite due to his social conscience, larger political agenda and slender pocketbook. This crisply directed, broadcast quality video will unabashedly preach vegetation management and habitat restoration as a means of protecting human life and property. There was a time when we could conserve nature by leaving it alone. We believe that we have now entered an era when wildlands must be managed in order to be saved. We know that people have been trained to hate fire. But fire is to our ecosystem what rain is to a tropical rain forest. So we hope that this multi-year effort to create a character driven video will create a framework for community dialogue and problem-solving around the issue of urban firestorms. We know that if we have a chance to film it then the change will come.... through the voters and the court of public opinion. And the natural environment will come out ahead in the long run. We'll start by improving the natural ecology in the interface zone. With the involvement of fire departments, civic and environmental organizations on the issue of urban firestorms we'll begin to improve the social ecology and break the log jam of inertia which grips Congress and the nation. The result will be an improvement in the moral ecology, representing the fabric of our nation, where shared values are in a shambles. Our video will imply that active stewardship of the land in the form of vegetation management is preferable to benign neglect. This video will reflect the belief that nature, the human being and the spirit must all work together and help each other. On the practical side, we'll attempt to convey that our nation's forests don't have to be biological deserts choked with dying trees and dead brush. Neither do these same forests have to be mere factory farms for the growth of biomass destined to be fermented into ethanol to run our cars. So this will be an aggressively proactive, forestry related, environmental video.

The Game Plan. All the characters portrayed in the video are based on real people, not composites. Their brilliance is in their ability to relate to nature from a modern perspective. Many geniuses have built roads with the stones we've thrown at them so you can bet that they won't be trying to terrify anyone into compliance with weed abatement and defensible space laws. By design we will include few, if any, shots of burning houses, smoke and flame in our video. Instead, by hook or by crook we'll get home owners to do for the environment (especially the creeks and the Bay) what home owners won't always do for themselves. Our goal is to get homeowners to take their fuel reduction problems seriously, in their backyards and beyond. Our rationale is that even in the altered suburban-wild lands interface zone, humans have a place in nature and an unsung and neglected role as stewards of the earth. We reject the theory that homeowners want to be scientifically managed. We believe they want to be led and not lied to.

About the Title. We have appropriated that icon of Western history, the steam train, for the title of our video and a real one rolling out of the Golden Gate Rail Museum in San Francisco will play a major role in an attention getting scene at the beginning of the film. Wild lands firefighters with lots of experience on the firelines, will readily grasp the acoustic connection. The average homeowner will subconsciously equate the strength and power of a steam locomotive with the strength and power of a runaway urban brush fire. But there is more to it than that and some well pondered method to my madness.

Sacred Cows? In Berkeley? NoooOOOOOooo! We have some of the best brains in the country and university trained immigrants from all over the world living right here in the Bay Area. Why hasn't someone thought of this approach before? Its not that we haven't looked but all the fire safety videos we've seen so far in our research extol the virtues of defensible space around homes and quit right then and there. We presume this is because that's all you can do when you have the fuel load tiger by the tail. (Pardon me while I blow off some steam). The members of the video project committee go one step further by saying the real culprits are out beyond in the exotic grasses, the thick brush, the bureaucratic inertia and the irrational cultural attitudes that protect these unnaturally heavy fuel loads. If the governor catches some flack for this it is only because there is a leadership vacuum on this issue and Sacramento usually lives up to its reputation as a bilingual city where the truth is occasionally spoken. (Mark Russell) We call a spade a spade and while doing so, find it highly ironic that in Berkeley, that bastion of radicalism, there is another canyon, loaded with fuel, that awaits the chance to drop an avalanche of fire on the suburbs below. And most of it is a "nature preserve" (read this as enforced neglect) and therefore untouchable. Duh! Like we haven't learned anything?

Does this mean another firestorm here in the Bay Area is inevitable? Maybe not. But we hope this web site and video will loosen the brain cuffs which still shackle land managers, firefighters, TV reporters and voters in beautiful downtown Berkeley and elsewhere. Whether or not the big one strikes, we regret to report that after six years of research, we are sure that a video cut from this cloth has yet to be made. If there was a video out there like ours we'd know about it by now. The best streaming video that we've seen on the internet so far was filmed in Larimer County, Colorado where the fire weather, if not the fuel loads, can be as bad, at times, as the Bay Area's.

Information Sources. We know this is an off beat approach to a complex problem but the author has borrowed liberally from several disciplines to bring this video script to you. Anthropology, botany, biology, fire science, landscape architecture, literature and history have all made a contribution here and experts in these fields have generously lent their support while offering advice and encouragement. Special thanks goes to author Glen Martin and Discover Magazine for permission to use material from an article on ethno botany in the August '96 issue that we were able to incorporate into the script. We'd also like to thank Australian author Frank Campbell for contributions from his hard hitting article, "Bushfire Deaths-The Gallipoli Syndrome" which was recently published in WildfireMagazine.

Grass Roots Change. On a practical level we know that homeowners will find in this video, inspiration for a number of things to do to increase the chances that their home will survive the next big firestorm. On a spiritual level, we know that homeowners will find ways to bring nature to their backyard that they might never have considered. Take a look and you'll agree, a naturalist, a brush cutter and a botanist have all got some important things to say as we showcase......... The Cannonball Express.

If you'd like to stop at the dining car for some provocative brain candy to chew on before the show then check out the link entitled, Food For Thought.

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