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California Fire Updates

As of now, we are blessedly spared from any fire danger in my area. But the smoke and ash are pretty oppressive anywhere you go in Southern California. The schools have canceled recess and pretty much all other outdoor activities. The best reporting and summaries (with links) I’ve been able to find are coming from my friend Ben over at Infinite Monkeys. When I last checked the numbers, the fires had consumed close to 700 homes and damaged hundreds more in the various areas where they are burning. Pray for those people and help where you can.

UPDATE: It’s much worse than 700 homes, unfortunately. It’s more than 1000 in San Diego county alone. I didn’t realize what a huge national story this was until this evening and the scope of the thing became more clear. (Also people keep calling to see if we’re o.k.--thanks!) So you all probably know as much as I do. Still, Ben’s links are quite helpful if you want even more information than you’re getting elsewhere.

Discussions - 14 Comments

In case anyone missed it, here are honored Ashbrook speaker Glenn Beck's insightful, intelligent, and useful remarks on the tragedy:

"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."

What's not true about what Beck said?

First off, I hope any hoodlums who started any of these fires get to spend the rest of their pathetic lives rotting in a jail cell.


Second, Mr. Beck's comments have just made me lose any respect I had for him. To say that these people, including a family I am very close to, who are losing their homes and everything they own, hate America is despicable. To say that my uncle and cousins, who have been warned that, depending on the wind, they too will need to evacuate soon, may hate America just for being in an area being ravaged by disaster is insulting. Just because some people out on the "Left Coast" may disagree with Mr. Beck and the American Constitution does not make it okay for him to imply that they are being punished by losing everything they have. It is truly insulting to the people losing their property and the firefighters working to save whatever they can.

Ah! the politics of Natural Disasters....Didn't Al Gore say something about these fires being a result of climate change? I am no scientist, but I am not sure you have to be a scientist to realize that people want explanations for natural disasters...some people say that the destruction of New Orleans by Katrina was divine retribution...It wouldn't take a genius to say something to the effect that California is burning like Sodom and Gomorrah...of course the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah lay southwest of the dead sea...The once proud civilization that occupied the fertile cresent didn't realize that its irrigation methods had environmental impacts... now one could joke at Al Gore's expense and question his Peace prize but if his ecologically friendly views had informed the fertile crescent Sodom and Gomorrah may not have burnt in the first place...If Sodom and Gomorrah doesn't burn down, if the fertile crescent is not plagued by salination...does the entire history of civilization change? Do we have the same problems today in the middle east? Perhaps not, send Al Gore back in time and his award may be well deserved. Unless you hold that the reason for Sodom and Gomorrah burning was divine retribution and not environmental factors...Lot's wife added salt to the soil because she turned and looked back and not because she used salt water for irrigating her wheat? If you seriously hold this...and you seriously think California is morally corrupt...well, why should God only act in the past and not in the present?

Well, I'm glad that I'm not the only one who thinks Glenn Beck is a "boob" for saying what he said. Courtesy of Julie's friend Ben.

Just pray for the people who have lost their homes--more than a thousand homes in San Diego county alone . . . hundreds more elsewhere. And pray for those who are doing their level best to help. It really is getting miserable--even here where we're pretty far from the real danger. The smoke and the ashes are still oppressive. The elderly and people with lung conditions (like asthma) are really suffering. It is beyond stupid to talk about who can score political points right now. I suspect Mr. Beck will have to apologize for what he said. But I hope Barbara Boxer also has to apologize for blaming Bush because our national guard troops aren't here to fight the fire. Really, I don't care if either of them apologizes. What they said speaks for itself. Times like these--to use a tired but true cliche--really do separate the men from the boys and the women from the girls.

Thanks for the link, Julie.

Yeah, Glen Beck is a silly goose. Turns out there is no monopoly of nonsense on the left. Although I doubt anyone here would suggest otherwise. Well, maybe one or two folks.

The weather seems to be turning in the firefighters' favor, and maybe the worst has past in Running Springs and the San Bernardino mountain communities. We'll see.

You realize those guys battling those fires probably haven't had any rest in days. They have to be utterly exhausted; yet they're out there, giving it all they've got.

But the people who really need to apologize are those that have prevented rational, commonsensical policies that would reduce the threat of these kinds of fires. Those that brought law suits to stop normal brush clearing, normal forest thinning: those are the ones to blame for all the fires we've seen of late. When I was a kid, you never heard of stories like this. But within the last decade, they're par for the course. Remember those fires that ripped through New Mexico during the Clinton years. It seemed most of New Mexico was up in flames.

And why? For what reason? What did we do before that prevented these fires growing to such size and scale? Why did we stop doing that? Who was it that enforced such a change in policy? Who is it that stands in the way of a return to previous policy?

How many lives need to be ripped apart before we're allowed to throw up on the ash heap yet one more failed liberal, environmental policy?

The flames came as near as 100 yards to my parents' Rancho Bernardo home. So far okay. I grew up in the section of Rancho Bernardo known as Westwood, basically the section west of I-15...not the retirement/golf-course section that RB is often known for, but classic So Cal suburb. It looks as if about a seventh or eighth of Westwood was burnt down. An area where I used to deliver papers, the Duenda and Aguamiel area on the north side of Westwood, sounds like it is basically gone, given the number of houses burnt.

I haven't checked out Infinite Monkeys yet; "Sign on San Diego" with its Latest Fire News "blog" is the best official source; the best blog source I've seen is called "And Still I Persist"--during the first days of the fire, it was the best source by far.

Beck is probably seeing those Malibu homes ablaze, what a cheap thing to say...RB, meanwhile is a Republican stronghold, a fact that annoyed young Demo-Socialist-teenage-me and that Alan Wolfe noted when he interviewed many of its residents in his One Nation After All.

Puzzled, the winds were so strong that a disaster would have happened no matter what, but you are basically right about the lack of controlled burning and clearing due to certain regulations being a problem. A book called All The Wild Places by Hogue put showed that the San Diego Indians used to frequently set fires to clear the land of much of its brush and chapparal; SD County under Indian control had many more fields and would have been less subject to firestorms.

And yeah, I'm somewhat depressed...bad dreams and I keep hearing strains of Bruce Springsteen's your home town or the Modern Lovers' these streets, we all know... echoing through my head. I never knew we were that vulnerable in RB. The stories I've been reading suggest that had conditions been slightly worse, or had slightly fewer fire-crew been available, literally the entire town could have been consumed.

I think Puzzled's point was more accurate during the last round of fires in 2003. These fires--many of which appear to be the result of arson--are, as Carl says, compounded mainly by the wind--not so much the brush clearing policies. I don't think we can blame environmentalists, George Bush or anyone else for that. The arsonists, however, should meet a very grim fate indeed.

Thanks for the tips on other links, Carl. I plan to have much more information up here in the coming days and weeks as this all gets sorted out.

That the fires occurred is not unusual. But that they've grown to such scale, such scope, that's the problem. It's not just the wind, for California experienced such winds before. But fires never grew to such size. Which means the fires have something to burn now, whereas before they did not.

Brush clearing and forest thinning don't just prevent fires, they also prevent fires growing to a scale where they're effectively out of control.

I saw a headline that said over a 1 million of our fellow citizens have been evacuated. ONE MILLION PEOPLE.

California has known these fires before, and known those famous Santa Anna winds before. But this is the first time that fires have grown to this extent.

Which begs the questions I raised earlier.

Why now? Why not before? What were we doing earlier that we're not doing now? Why did we stop? What prevents us returning to the sane policies of yesteryear?

There are so many people concentrated in Southern California! Has there been some moratorium on building since 2003? I'll bet quite otherwise. I know I unreasonably make California sound like downtown Tokyo and I have been to Southern CA and know how much open space there is. However, compared to many other places in the US, California has a relatively dense population, which means there will be a lot of people to evacuate.

Then this is the - what? - fifth year of a drought.

It is impressive what we can do to protect ourselves from natural disaster, but clearly, we can't prevent all bad things from happening.

The increased number of houses over the years, particularly in rural-exurban areas like Ramona or East Poway or the San Pasqual area obviously means more homes will burn when big fires come. But the heavy losses in Rancho Bernardo are in standard suburbs, houses that have been there thirty years. I guess this was just always possible.

And funnily enough, the lack of rain for the last few years made the fires less potent! That's because ample rains in the winter and spring cause thicker than normal bursh growth, which the So Cal summers always dry out. So there was less fuel out there this time due to low rains. Or so I heard from a fire expert on one news program.

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