The personal and political are mixing in a swirl of fear and anger today. Yesterday, I was supposed to have a call with some folks down south about work, but they were evacuated due to the raging wildfires in Southern California. Everybody is ok and they still have their homes. Same goes for my friends in the San Diego area. Everybody checking in on folks in the area certainly is reminding me of 9/11, when I was less than a hundred miles north of the city, surrounded by classmates from the city and my family in midtown.
Now for the political. These comments by Glen Beck are enormously distressing.
I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today.
Beck has no clue what he is talking about. These are wildfires and they are burning in largely conservative areas, not the normal people right-winger Beck would normally would be claiming hate America. Just an incredibly offensive and stupid thing to say. And to think this man has a show on CNN. Liberal media my ass.
The second political piece of this story is Arnold’s failure to ensure that the state was prepared to battle fires at this level magnitude. djardin in the comments at Calitics reminds us of this LAT article titled “Fire danger acute as ’03 lessons fade” from May of this year. It detailed how Arnold failed to follow the recommendations by his Blue Ribbon Fire Commission and vetoed 4 out of 5 bills that would have funded their recommendations. This is what he failed to do:
• Engines: The state remains far short of the 150 additional engines recommended to supplement the governor’s Office of Emergency Services fleet of 110. The first of 19 new engines will be delivered by July. Los Angeles County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman said getting more trucks is crucial to avoid a repeat of 2003, when departments had firefighters available but not enough trucks to get them to the front lines. “We had run out of vehicles,” he said.
• Helicopter fleet. The commission found that the state’s aging fire helicopters needed to be replaced. But no new choppers have been purchased. “The fleet itself is excess aircraft built in the ’60s,” said Mike Padilla, chief of aviation with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “They are still doing the job … [but] they’re getting older.”
• Communications: In 2003, firefighters and law enforcement officers used different radio frequencies, so information didn’t always get passed along. In San Diego’s Cedar fire, radio lines broke down because of volume, leaving firefighters vulnerable. These problems remain. “It’s hard to get everyone on a system or off a system,” said Kim Zagaris, fire chief for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. “It’s not cheap.”
• Staffing: The commission recommended that all state fire engines sent to major wildfires have at least four firefighters. Instead, the state puts four firefighters on fire engines based on fire threat conditions. State firetrucks in high-risk fire zones have four-person crews, but crews elsewhere that would come in as reinforcements might have only three, Jones said. “It’s much more productive to have four persons on an engine than three” to hold fire lines and carve fire breaks, he said.
Our firefighters are doing a heroic job with what they have. Hopefully we will be able to assess later if the missing man power and equipment cost more lives and homes. At this point, some of this looks like it could have been avoidable.
I hope everyone gets the information they need and heed the advice of the first responders. While my home is open to my friends, with some luck they will not need it.