Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Victims in Wildfire’s Path Say, ‘Why Me?’

from the new york times:

Mr. Tohsakul, a television news program manager, rested assured on Monday that the fire was miles from his house after viewing scenes of the area shot by one of the station’s cameramen. But on Tuesday afternoon, he sat in his driveway taking deep breaths at the sight of the roof caved in and his possessions charred.

“What did I do to deserve this?” he said, looking at several unscathed homes next to his. “It’s just unbelievable.”

Mr. Becker returned from out of town and talked his way past police barricades to arrive at his house, with only a touch of damage to a fence. “I have no idea why we got saved and others didn’t,” he said.

Local television overnight had fixed on the image of a large house, a 10,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style hilltop jewel, burning to the ground in Rancho Santa Fe, a wealthy area. It belonged to Bob Jaffe, a venture capitalist, who visited the wreck on Tuesday. His Porsche somehow survived.


Some residents fumed at what they considered a slow response by firefighters, who have struggled to rush from fire to fire across Southern California.

why me? - perhaps some background reading...

the united states is witnessing a population surge into the open country - into a place where fire ecology has always been very much part of the natural order, much like it is in the mediterranean. this means that the fastest growing areas of the US are in places that are most prone to wildfire - the canyons, mesas and alpine retreats of the west.

warming trends for nearly 30 years along with heat records that nobody wants, has created conditions for new fires that not only burn hotter, but larger.

recently in greece, nearly 450,000 acres of olive groves, forests and parkland were consumed by raging fires. by contrast, the west has lost nearly 20 times that amount this year.

still thousands are moving into the open country at the far suburban edge of fast-growing western cities. since 1990 more than eight million homes have been built in western areas on the surface, the land still looks good. but the trees in most western forests are sick. they are losing their fire-resistant resin or bark. all these people are now living in places where fire is part of the natural cycle…

in addition, we are witnessing the rise of a new type of home in these new communities at the edge of a national forest. people are not building little cabins or humble mountain shacks. we want big, sometimes trophy homes of 5,000 square feet or more, three stories, half a dozen bedrooms, often with huge timbers.

in the wilderness, away from the urban clusters, they expect that the wild will not touch them. but fire, is a much a part of this ecology as perennial grass. fire renews the forest. many trees such as sequoia’s and some pines and other plants require fire in order to release the seed from the husk. a whole class of plant life require fire in order to reproduce.

these new houses, look perfect in their wilderness backdrop setting, but to a fire, they are just fuel. the people who live in these homes - also expect someone outside their community to protect them when a fire does break out.

the forest service, originally set up to nurture and patrol the great publicly-owned reserves of the west, has become the fire service. they spend nearly half their budget on helicopters, tractors, buckets and paying to feed and move these big camps of seasonal firefighters.

Why me? perhaps because we shouldn’t be living in these areas in such great numbers in the first place...


The Halls said...

Here! Here! But that's too logical isn't it. Americans have a right to live wherever they want. How dare someone suggest that people make responsible and intelligent choices. That's what government bail-outs are for. After all, we will rebuild in New Orleans, truth be damned.

nutty said...

americans, along with others, perceive they have the 'right' to do a lot of things...just because they 'can'.

living in privileged societies warps our senses of what defines a want, need, or requirement, never mind a 'right'.