Kids' Environmental Report Card: Wildfires

"Yes, people should be allowed to live where they want." This was the resounding response to the Kids' Environmental Report Card question of whether new houses should be built in fire-prone parts of the country.

Of course, adults as well as kids have shown overwhelming support for rebuilding homes burnt by wildfires. Many businesses have rallied in support of the San Diego Foundation's "After the Fire Fund" for victims of the October 2007 wildfires in southern California.

In just four days, the blazes in and around California's San Diego County burned more than 400,000 acres and forced at least 500,000 people to flee their homes — the largest evacuation in state history. An estimated 2,100 homes and other buildings were damaged by this natural disaster.

Risky Business

"More and more people are making their homes in woodland settings in or near forests, rural areas, or remote mountain sites," notes the American Red Cross Web site on wildfire safety. "There, homeowners enjoy the beauty of the environment but face the very real danger of wildfire."

The Red Cross offers a number of safety measures for people living in fire-prone areas. "Talk to your neighbors about wildfire safety," its Web site suggests. "Plan how the neighborhood could work together after a wildfire. Make a list of your neighbors' skills, such as medical or technical. Consider how you could help neighbors who have special needs, such as elderly or disabled persons."