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Home > Natural Resources > Disaster Resources

AFTERMATH - SoCal Fire News Coverage...and Officialdom

Californians all have some serious thinking and some hard work ahead of us to cope with our unique California reality and the changes happening because of climate change.

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OCT 24, 2007 -- Criticism has begun to mount about handling of the fire dangers, according to major newspapers urging better preparedness and response to the tragedy.

  • The San Diego Union-Tribune issued a sharp rebuke of federal and state officials.
  • The Los Angles Times hinted at the problematic preparation and response to the fires saying the region was woefully unprepared for the cataclysm.
  • Union-Tribune declared the urgent need for federal and state lawmakers and regulators to get their acts together and take a far more aggressive approach in heading off such blazes

    After the Cedar fire and other devastating blazes in 2003, both Congress and the Legislature took several steps. But much remains to be done. The federal government needs to resolve the constant conflicts between fire control efforts and environmental rules.

  • Orange County Register editors took issue with the DC-10 plane carrying fire retardant, claiming too much bureaucracy had limited the use of the planes.
  • L.A. Times Op-Ed, Daniel James Brown added: "What does it mean to manage fire more realistically and effectively?

    For starters, it means gradually undoing the harm we have done in allowing vast accumulations of fuel to build up... unleash the cleansing power of fire to clear and renew the land.

    It means seriously restricting residential growth in areas where the fuel loads can't be reduced -- no matter how badly people might want to live there or how much they might be willing to pay to do so.

  • North County Times in Escondido hinted at blame, but focused on the positive response by residents and emergency crews.
  • North County Times story, however, cited examples of a lack of manpower for the fire resistance
  • The governor denied a poor aerial response: "The fact is that we could have all the planes in the world here -- we have 90 aircraft here and six that we got especially from the federal government -- and they can't fly because of the wind situation.
  • Union-Tribune editorial observed: "...hundreds of thousands of residents fled their homes, most carrying just a few hastily packed valuables and many others with precious pets in tow. Remarkably, this broad exodus was carried out in orderly fashion, with tens of thousands of reverse 911 calls providing advance warning to residents and helping to keep the loss of life mercifully low."
  • Long Beach Press-Telegram: Those who lost their homes in Malibu already are telling reporters they intend to pay the price and rebuild, sometimes in the very places burned out in previous fires.
  • Ventura County Star: When the smoke clears, you, through your donations, become heroes of a different sort.
  • Los Angeles Daily News: Throughout the Southland, brave firefighters battle the blazes day and night, exhausted and at great personal risk. Theirs can at best be described as an uphill battle, trying to contain multiple wildfires fueled by hot, hurricane-force winds.

Environmental and Fire Control at Cross-Purposes?

Logging and Back-door Politics

Green activists who worry about thinning efforts being a back-door way to promote logging or other exploitation of federal and private lands consistently use process challenges to block reasonable efforts to manage fire risk.

Clean-air Regulations and Controlled Burns

Federal fire policy is often incoherent, thanks to a failed effort to balance environmental, political, legal and turf concerns. One example: Officials have finally woken up to the value of controlled burns to reduce the brush and dead trees that can lead to conflagrations. But such burns are often blocked by federal clean-air regulations – and waivers are very hard to come by.

Coordination of Government Agencies, Professionals and Citizens

The reverse 911 system worked. Building and zoning codes haven't worked -- but are being tightened, just not in time for this disaster.

It was also reported that bond issue(s) were turned down by communities that would have increased fire protection capacity.

Sharing Blame for Community Sustainability

There IS blame to go around ... and the question that remains is always, WILL WE LEARN FROM OUR EXPERIENCE? Will we think better, act better and not make the same mistakes again and again?

That will power and intelligence applies not only to our government policy makers and professionals, but to citizens who act before they think -- encroaching on high-danger wildlands. Blame extends to developers and builders who don't hold a firm line on safety in their daily work.

And blame extends to news media who haven't gotten the message across in a timely manner that SOLUTIONS do exist...that peer pressure can prevent problems more cost-effectively than disaster recovery.

We all have blame...and we all have some serious thinking and some hard work ahead of us to cope with our unique California reality and the changes happening because of climate change. Making our high risk neighborhoods and communities somewhat safe -- there is no such thing as safety in such environments -- will take tough love. Compassion with discipline.

Let's get serious and act with compassion and wisdom!

Carolyn Allen
Editor-in-Chief, California Green Solutions

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Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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