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The Politics of Fire

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Time to fight a fire is before the fire is raging out of control

Fires in Los Angeles have grown to the size of Washington, D.C

“We are very fortunate that we have the best and the most aggressive, best trained, most courageous firefighters in the world and that’s why we are able to push back very heavily.”

- California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

We are all proud of our firefighters. These men are all heroes. But why put them in harms way if we don’t have to? And we don’t- yet we do…why?

It’s a Turf War.

We are fighting more massive fires that ever because of a meltdown of responsibility between the State Fire Marshall, the only one responsible to protect human lives and property under the California Constitution, and resource agencies like the California Coastal Commission, the focus of SINS OF COMMISSION.

By failing to permit the clearance of ESHA in large unbroken swaths, the California Coastal Commission, and other agencies have jeopardized the very resources they are supposed to protect.

Deer Lost

People, wildlife, the environment of California - and the world are all victims of California political in-fighting. No one…certainly not the environment… and definitely not the people benefits.

The other point that invites contemplation is, Fire fighting is big business - probably one of our state’s biggest industries - and perhaps the biggest non tax and fine business in the Golden State.

Fire fighting makes  great photo ops, is big news, and gets lots of federal emergency money.

Trimming a bunch of ESHA does none of that .

Fire: Does ends justifies means?

Fire, is also a deadly political weapon. People don’t always get to rebuild their homes, and if a particular agency or commission desires to reduce population density….it can now use its permitting process to do so and deny people the right to rebuild… Santa Cruz, for instance.

It is high time the Secretary of the Interior steps to clean California’s house - since its obvious California can’t or won’t because of self-interest and completion for funds between agencies.

The state has spent $106.5 million of its $182 million emergency firefighting fund — just two months into the fiscal year

-Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer

California Fire Season - A Promise Broken

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

LOS ANGELES (Aug. 29) — A growing wildfire sending massive billows of smoke into the sky north of Los Angeles nearly tripled in size Saturday, injuring three residents, burning a small number of homes, knocking out power to many more and prompting evacuations in a number of mountain

Mandatory evacuations were extended Saturday into neighborhoods in the canyons on the northwestern edge of Altadena, Glendale, La Crescenta and Big Tujunga Canyon, Forest Service spokesman Bruce Quintelier said. It was unclear how many residents were ordered to leave.

California is heading into the most destructive part of its fire season, when winds can whip flames into 90 mile per hour storms of fire - it’s clear that a promise was not kept.

Anyone who suggests fire protection can be as good this fall as in recent years most likely will turn out to be living a fantasy. That, of course, would include Schwarzenegger, for whom everything almost always is “fantastic” in more ways than one.

(Source-Tom Elias www.californiafocus.net)

The new state budget cuts $27 million from Cal Fire, the state agency that sends people and equipment wherever they’re needed most. The reduction includes more than $10 million earmarked for new fire engines, hoses, pumps and other equipment.

There’s also the matter of the DC-10 airborne tanker, another so-called budget cut likely to cost more than it saves.

For years, California has contracted for a standby DC-10 that can dump up to 12,000 gallons of water or fire retardant each time valves open beneath its huge tank.

But a stroke of Schwarzenegger’s pen cancelled the $7 million contract that kept that jumbo jet plane on standby for California.

Now, the state will pay more than $66,000 every day it uses the plane, with a five-day minimum. Anything beyond 21 deployments would end up costing more than the budget cut - and if this year turns out like the last few, that’s how it will be….assuming the DC-10 is available.

But these reductions in state firefighting ability may pale beside what local fire departments will suffer because of the new budget’s raids on local funds.

In Los Angeles, for one, firefighting officials must cover a $39 million shortfall caused in large part by the state raid. So there will be “brownouts” at many city fire stations, with a total of 87 fewer firefighters on duty each day, almost one-tenth of the usual work force. One battalion command team, 15 fire companies and nine ambulances will be out of service each day, but no city fire stations will actually close.

In other areas, including parts of San Diego County ravaged by several large fires over the last five years, fire prevention efforts are being cut. High-risk Fallbrook is one such place, while several other local districts are ironically casting about for money to pay their contracts for standby assistance from Cal Fire. If they can’t pay, the state agency will either have to let the locals handle all problems or go to work without the payment it usually gets. Since Cal Fire insists nothing will diminish its performance, the agency will probably work some fires without reimbursement. Some budget solution.

The most significant thing here is that while officials say they will still “attack and respond,” they may not be able to be as effective as usual.

(Source-Tom Elias www.californiafocus.net)

So far, there heven’t been any mega-blazes anywhere in California until mid-August. But the driest part of the year is still ahead, the season when past wildfires have ravaged Malibu, Berkeley, Bel Air, Rancho Santa Fe, Laguna Beach, the Oakland hills and many other California areas.



 
 
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