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California Fire Season - A Promise Broken

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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3 Responses to “California Fire Season - A Promise Broken”

  1. Francis Drouillard Says:

    None of the fires currently burning are within the Coastal Zone or even remotely related to the California Coastal Commission. So why the picture of the commissioners at the top of the story?

  2. admin Says:

    Dear Francis,

    Although none of the fires this week, are along the coast - they may indeed rampage that way if the wind shifts. Santa Barbara was definitely in the Coastal Zone, and so was Santa Cruz.

    The time to fight fires is before the fire is raging.

    For any governor to say,

    “we are very fortunate that we have the best and the most aggressive, best trained, most courageous firefighters in the world …”

    is totally missing the point.

    Yes, these men are heroes….but why put them in harms way if we don’t have to?

    And we don’t.

    We are fighting these massive fires, because of a severe meltdown of responsibility between the State Fire Marshall - the only one responsible to protect lives under the California Cons, 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 resource they are supposed to protect

    No one…certainly not the environment, and definitely not the people benefits. The other point that bears repeating is Fire fighting is big visual news, trimming ESHA isn’t .

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

  3. Francis Drouillard Says:

    Mr. Oshen — You need to consider these questions:

    What percentage of wildfires are in the Coastal Zone?

    Of those in the Coastal Zone, what percentage were on developed land?

    Of those that were within the Coastal Zone and on developed land, what percentage of wildfires resulted from Coastal Commission decisions?

    I think an honest answer to those questions exposes the faulty logic of your campaign against the Coastal Commission.

    One more question — just how much brush clearing is enough in areas prone to wildfires? From a planning and ecological perspective, it would be much better to avoid developing in areas prone to natural disasters such as wildfires, floods and earthquakes.

    Any fire marshall worth his salt would have told you so.

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