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Friday, 26 October 2007

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Indeed Mike,

I too have been following and speaking with friends in the area. (all safe and mostly out of the line of fire).

I have seen some wonderful photography on the LA Times and NY Times site. That is to be suspected.......

The pic you posted dispite it's "quality" is one of the more arresting images I have seen.

Not really sure why other than it seems to have a sense of tension and fear that is different from what you normally see.

Many thanks for the mention of this event, Mike. I can't imagine what it's like to lose everything to a fire like this. It was hard enough to having pack up our house and leave things behind, not knowing if we'd have a house to return to. It seems like everybody out here knows somebody who lost their home, but the good news is that people are really banding together to help each other out.

My son was one of the people forced out of his home in Lake Arrowhead -- he can't go back yet, but his home is still standing. The hardest thing to believe is some of these fires were apparently set by arsonists (one of whom was shot to death a couple of days ago, after fleeing the police; when finally cornered, he tried to ram the police car with his and was shot.) He'd apparently driven in from Arizona just to set his fires. The photo you put up front is a good one -- gives a scale to the whole thing. The scale is huge.

JC

"The hardest thing to believe is some of these fires were apparently set by arsonists"

I don't find it hard to believe at all. This summer's huge fires in Greece were 'helped' by arsonists. My own Croatia also suffered from forest and shrub fires this summer and they arrested a couple of arsonists. One claimed he was angry with a shrub so he decided to burn it, while another said God told him to do it.

My thoughts go out too, I live in an area of New South Wales which is situated in a World Heritage Area, but also one famous for bushfire occurrences.

I understand that Australia was generous in exporting eucalypts to Southern California and they are very fire prone.

One radio report here remarked on the relatively new approach to bush fire fighting in NSW which doesn't force able residents to evacuate their properties unless all hope is lost, but to allow them to stay and fight the fires in their yards. A contrast was drawn with the mass and compulsory evacuations in S Cal. and how this sat with the famous frontier spirit of individual survival of Americans.

Please don't read this as criticism, every case on its merits and circumstances, but I'd be doubly aggrieved if I'd been forced to leave my home if I felt that I could have saved it.

(I'd be heartbroken about all those wooden cameras fueling the flames, too)

Regards - Ross

Your thoughts go to the right place, probably. Mine go to the political implications. From here (Spain) it's impossible to understand that the most powerful country in the world protects its ctizens so badly. Katrina was a revelation. The matter seems to have improved slightly in this case (lots of people think it's because the victims are white) but still it's outrageous and unbelievable.
We have plenty of fires every summer, but they never reach such dimensions. We have helicopters, planes, we hire them from other countries if neccessary. Last year, after a particularly difficult fire in the Canary Islands, the government set up the UME (Military Emergency Unit) to fight catastrophes. THey are now 3.000 men, on the way to a total of 15.000.
Did you see the Oreo video of Ben (the one from Ben & Jerry)? It's here: http://www.truemajorityaction.com/oreos/
Take a couple of Oreos out of military expediture and you have the resources to control fires, three or four more and you have universal medical assistance free for everybody. Ain't it that what the politicians are supposed to concentrate on? The wellbeing of their fellow citizens?

Earthquakes, mud slides, brush fires, world class traffic, smog, a population density of over 7000 people per square mile in some areas, etc., etc. Why does anyone want to live in southern California?

To be picky, our thoughts don't go out anywhere. Our thoughts are OF those poor people -- and they are, of course.

Quote: "Your thoughts go to the right place, probably. Mine go to the political implications. From here (Spain) it's impossible to understand that the most powerful country in the world protects its citizens so badly. Katrina was a revelation. The matter seems to have improved slightly in this case (lots of people think it's because the victims are white) but still it's outrageous and unbelievable. We have plenty of fires every summer, but they never reach such dimensions. We have helicopters, planes, we hire them from other countries if neccessary. Last year, after a particularly difficult fire in the Canary Islands, the government set up the UME (Military Emergency Unit) to fight catastrophes. They are now 3.000 men, on the way to a total of 15.000."

No disrespect, but you simply don't understand the scale of these things --either Katrina or these fires. California is a little less than 1/3 the size of Spain. You say you have 3000 disaster people on the way to 15,000 --- well, there were 13,000 *firefighters* fighting these fires, plus many thousand more support personnel, plus dozens of helicopters and tanker aircraft. The fires were burning through very dry brush, with Santa Ana winds pushing them -- winds up to 160 kph; in effect, a dry hurricane.

You have a fire going in the Canary Islands now -- 25,000 acres have burned in an arson fire. These California fires have burned 500,000 acres -- 20 times as much as the Canary Islands fires -- and have been burning for only six days. It was an uncontrollable flash, and it really wouldn't have made much difference how many people were there. All in all, the firefighters did a pretty good job in saving as much as they did

JC

I'm with John Camp on this one. Another thing you have to understand is that the U.S. deals with vast forest fires every single year. The California fires got so much media attention because they affected relatively populated areas and burned down so many homes and buildings and threatened so much agricultural land and livestock (we lost 1/3rd of the avocado crop, for instance). In fact, in an average year the U.S. has 7.5 *million* acres involved in major forest fires (that's over the last five years, according to the NIFC, the National Interagency Fire Center). That's 15 times the area of the affected lands in Southern California, with all the fires there combined. In 2007 so far we have had 8.7 million acres involved in large fires, and the year's not over yet.

One of the reasons the California fires were quelled so quickly is that the West has large numbers of very experienced, highly expert firefighting personnel (and it helped, I suspect, that the California fires happened to come in a lull in the incidence of other major forest fires). There is plenty that the U.S. does wrong, but we're *really* good at controlling large forest fires. I seriously doubt any other nation on Earth could mobilize the resources and expertise to control 500,000 acres of life-threatening forest fires in six days.

Mike J.

Yes, the import of the eucalyptus was a bad move in Southern California. To my recollection, they were planted by the railroads in the hope that they'd provide a ready source of timber for ties (which is a use to which they are put in Australia). They thrive, but don't seem to grow broad enough for useful timber here. They do burn readily, though.

However, most of these fires didn't involve such trees.

What made these fires so hard were the high winds, making firebreaks almost useless since burning embers could travel a considerable distance on the wind.

I was completely surrounded by the fires here in Carlsbad. Luckily, I live two blocks from an evacuation center, so I knew I was safe.

The question came up why anyone would live here. Well, I'll tell ya, I've lived all over the US and three provinces of Canada. And I've been around the world. Southern California has just about the best weather there is year round. They say the easiest job in the world is the weatherman for San Diego. No doubt about it. Eating lunch outside in January is a treat. Not wearing a jacket from March to November too!

Global warming might be changing things so it's not so good here. Each summer here has been warmer than the previous one for several years. It's very dry. It's possible this isn't going to continue to be paradise. But for now, I love living here. Even though once I retire I won't be able to afford living here. That's what Southern Oregon is for! (I grew up in Oregon.)

Mike -

There's much to be said about the fires and those who fought them. From at least one, and I suspect many more, of the Southern Californians who log onto Online Photog - thanks.

No offence meant, but California is roughly the same size as Spain (410.000 square kms. vs. 500.000) not one third, and has a roughly similar population (36M people vs 42). Can't remember now a single fire of that dimension, but fires who burn 80/100.000 acres are nor rare. Arson causes 90% of them, by the way.Those 15.000 men are a special military unit, to be added to the resources already in existence.
I feel I do have a good sense of the scale of things, in general. I understand this fire was like "the perfect storm", but still think my comments hold up to the facts. I may be wrong.

It's pretty obvious that the US have gigantic resources available, what is questionable is the way they are spent. Katrina revealed an emergency prevention and relief system completely oblivious to the needs of the country and the people. I am sure the firefighters did a good job, still, precisely because I am fully aware of the wealth of your administration and it's virtues, I expect it to do a much better job.

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