Homeland Security: Fighting The California Fires
Homeland Security: Fighting The California Fires
Wildfires continue to burn in southern California for the fifth straight day today, as at least half a million residents have been forced to flee their homes.
|OCTOBER 25, 2007||by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna,
Matt Corley, Ali Frick, and Jeremy Richmond
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| HOMELAND SECURITY
Fighting The California Fires
Wildfires continue to burn in southern California for the fifth straight day today, as at least half a million residents have been forced to flee their homes. By Wednesday, the fires had burned at least 645 square miles, an area twice the size of New York City. Over 1,500 homes have already been destroyed, and officials estimate the cost of damage at $1 billion or more. The strong and unpredictable Santa Ana winds continue to fan the flames, though by yesterday afternoon the wind began to shift, giving Californians hope that the worst was over. On Wednesday, President Bush declared the fires a major disaster, which set in motion long-term federal aid, and today, he will visit California. San Diego fire chiefs said they had learned from the devastating fires of 2003. “The communication between different agencies has significantly improved,” Danny Mastro, division chief of the Coronado Fire Services Department, said. “Emergency operations were set up a lot more quickly.” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) also expressed confidence in his state’s response to the fires. “Trust me when I tell you — [if] you are looking for mistakes and you won’t find it,” he said. “It’s good news. Trust me.”
KATRINA’S LESSONS LEARNED: Indeed, state and federal officials deserve credit for their efforts combating the fires and keeping injuries to a minimum. In San Diego county, local officials placed more than 200,000 reverse 911 calls to residents, urging them to evacuate their homes. California’s “state and local coordination, communication and planning for fires and other events are well advanced, built on decades of experience.” White House Press Secretary Dana Perino pointed to the swift evacuation order as one of the “lessons learned” after Hurricane Katrina. “There’s increased coordination and communication and earlier communication and coordination between the federal, state and local governments,” she said. “We have learned those lessons and those lessons are being applied.” Thousands of Californians who took refuge at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium had an experience far different from refugees who fled to New Orleans’ Superdome in the wake of Katrina. Californians were greeted there by clean cots, tents, pillows, and blankets. “Volunteers offered massage therapy, yoga, kosher food, and art projects for kids,” and others arrived in clown suits to entertain the children. “We have the luxury of being able to count on our neighbors,” San Diego Mayor Gerald Robert Sanders said. “The folks in New Orleans didn’t have that luxury, because everybody was impacted.”
WAR STRETCHES DISASTER RESOURCES: Despite the proactive and immediate response by the local officials, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continue to eat up resources and thus limit disaster response efforts. “Right now, we are down 50 percent in terms of our National Guard equipment because they’re all in Iraq, the equipment, half of the equipment,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said. “What we really need are those firefighters, we need the equipment, we need, frankly, we need those troops back from Iraq,” said Lt. Gov. John Garamendi (D). California was forced to pull 200 guard members from the Mexico border and deploy state prison inmates to fight the fires. This is not the first time that the war in Iraq has diverted resources from natural disasters at home. Last May, when tornadoes slammed into Kansas, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) said that National Guard’s response was made “much slower” because so much of its force was deployed to Iraq. “I have said for nearly two years, and will continue to say, that we have a looming crisis on our hands when it comes to National Guard equipment in Iraq and our needs here at home,” she said. A January report by the Government Accountability Office reported that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq drained stateside resources for the National Guard, possibly hampering its ability to react effectively to a natural disaster.
THE RIGHT POINTS FINGERS: The right wing spent this week looking for people to blame for the forest fires. Fox News pointed the finger at al Qaeda terrorists. CNN’s right-wing pundit Glenn Beck said the fires were hitting some “people who hate America” and later blamed the fires on the “damn environmentalists” and their “bad environmental policies.” Michelle Malkin, a leading conservative blogger, echoed the complaint, pointing to “litigious environmentalists” for “standing in the way” of Bush’s Healthy Forests Initiative. In fact, environmentalists don’t oppose removing brush and trees that serve as tinder in wildfires, but the so-called Healthy Forest Initiative was more concerned with giving logging companies free reign over forests than enacting sensible forest-fire prevention. Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Exxon-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, derided the supposition that global warming has played a role in the wildfires, mocking it as something “alarmists are talking about.” But as Center for American Progress’s Daniel J. Weiss points out, “massive, destructive wildfires could occur even more frequently and with greater ferocity due to global warming. Earlier this year, the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted that ‘a warming climate encourages wildfires through a long summer period that dries fuels, promoting easier ignition and faster spread.'”
According to a new report from The Sustainable Endowments Institute, more than two out of every three colleges have improved their standing on campus greening efforts.
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COLORADO: “Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper on Wednesday called on Denverites to reduce the city’s per-capita greenhouse-gas emissions by 10 percent by 2012 .”
VIRGINIA: Latino immigrants urge people to “stay and defend their rights in the aftermath of new county measures aimed at keeping out illegal immigrants.”
THINK PROGRESS: Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly: Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is a “provocateur” for “the gay agenda” of “indoctrination.”
SCIENCE PROGRESS: The potential negative effects of President Bush’s anti-family planning appointee Susan Orr.
WAR ROOM: With no basis for her assertion, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino claims, “Congress is being run by Code Pink.”
CARPETBAGGER REPORT: In an Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week speech, former Sen. Rich Santorum (R-PA) says Islam is “not just something you do on Sunday.”
“I can tell you unequivocally that the ongoing war-fighting activities…have had no negative effect at all (on) our ability to provide sufficient forces to assist civilian authorities in fighting the wildfires.”
“Right now we are down 50 percent in terms of our National Guard equipment because they’re all in Iraq. The equipment — half of the equipment, so we really will need help.”
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