Tuesday, October 23, 2007

FIRE Vs. FLOOD: US Response

California National Guard and California-based active duty personnel are providing some of the muscle needed to contain the fires, which have driven more than 500,000 people from their homes in 12 counties of California.

Left: Another amazing shot of the - the red dots show where infrared imagers spotted intense heat on the ground - fire.

Sheriff's officials said at least 346,000 homes in San Diego County have been evacuated.

Officials at the National Inter Agency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, are working with representatives from U.S. Northern Command to coordinate requests for Defense Department personnel and assets. Northern Command officials also have people working in Southern California directly with local authorities.

Half a million Californians have been ordered to evacuate their homes and flee the spreading wildfires blazing across southern California Tuesday.

Left: NASA's Earth-observing satellites have been snapping pictures this week of the devastating wildfires that have scorched southern California and burned hundreds out of their homes.

FEMA Administrator David Paulison said that the President's action authorizes FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives, protect property and public health and safety, and lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties.

Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding.

Left: Modular airborne firefighting system Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard aircrews flying C-130 Hercules aircraft, similar to this one, equipped with modular airborne firefighting systems, or MAFFS, are deploying to California to fight wildfires. The aircraft can drop up to 3000 gallons of retardant covering an area one-quarter of a mile long and 60 feet wide.

Paulison named Michael J. Hall as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area.
"We have the money flowing, we have assets going there," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Tuesday on MSNBC." Speaking at a White House briefing Tuesday afternoon, Perino said the administration is communicating "better and earlier" with relevant authorities about the fires, a lesson learned from its response to Hurricane Katrina.
The White House was criticized by some for a slow response to the hurricane when it struck the Gulf Coast in 2005.

What if we put this huge effort in California in the context of global tragedies or even against Katrina? Does the tragedy in California surpass the suffering and carnage of New Orleans or three million dead Congolese, or a million dead Iraqis, or 300, 000 in Darfur, or a hundred years of Palestinian oppression, etcetera? How many more millions have been displaced around the world and forced to flee from their homes in recent years - if not from war because of the encroachment of capital?

Nearly a dozen separate blazes were burning last night across the drought-parched region, fueled by gale-force winds and scorching temperatures.

The devastation wrought by nature is often without the control of man. It is therefore, not preventable in many instances. Still, does a natural phenomenon make its occurrence more tragic than the carnage created by the greed, power and hatred of man?

Left: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was briefed and held a Press Conference on the Canyon Fire and other Los Angeles area fires. Other fires in the Los Angeles area include the Ranch Fire, Session Fire, Buckweed Fire and the October Incident in Los Angeles County; Sedgwick Fire in Santa Barbara County; and the Nightsky Incident in Ventura County.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governor declared a state of emergency in seven counties and described the escalating crisis as a "tragedy" for the state.

Too bad we cannot just declare a "state of emergency" in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Palestine, or DRC, or Somalia, or Darfur, or Pakistan, or Central African Republic, or Chechnya, or Bosnia, or Sri Lanka, or Kosovo, or Haiti, or Kashmir, or Colombia, or Papua, or Indonesia, or Mali, or Niger, or Chad, or Mauritania, or Algeria, or Rwanda, or Uganda, or Djibouti, or Burundi, or Ivory Coast, or Sierra Leone, or Liberia, or Burma, or Kyrgyzstan and "evacuate" the people dying en masse. Just too bad isn't it?

The situation remains critical, fire officials say the 12 in-contained large fires have burned more than 335,000 acres. With evacuations underway, hundreds of homes and commercial buildings throughout the area have been damaged or destroyed. Hot, dry and gusty Santa Ana winds continue to be a challenge as firefighters work to contain these blazes.

Are we supposed to factor 500,000 and 335, 000 with some other numbers? How about 200 million divided by six? I am having trouble grasping it. I am trying to weigh the information, to judge the situation and ascertain the depth of the tragedy, but keep banging my head on the side of the monitor.

So I run it through my mind once more just to give the benefit of doubt to all those decrying this tragedy. Especially, because emotion is a quirky specie and there is no objective way of measuring it. Otherwise, how can one explain the pouring of amity to California as opposed to the lackadaisical reaction to New Orleans? Just can't understand these weird feelings and their sources.

However, the personal is not the universal. Do not let treatises and philosophical tracts fool you. It is all about base guts and us. Albeit, wars are mostly, removed - the people dying become mere statistics after a while - and become handy material in meeting publishing quota. War escapes and is beyond especially, when one has spent years dealing with the subject of death and destruction in an intellectual manner, never having actually, fired an M-16, Uzy or Kalichnakov - therefore, experienced as a far off process.

Intellectualizing pain and suffering, for instance of the Palestinians is fine and well. But smoke out my favorite Hollywood Honk and you'll have hell to pay. It's best to view the situation through the lens of modernity. These stars are akin of the prophets, saints and heroes of the past. The media of film, music and literature has replaced religion in modern times. It is therefore, appropriate to place such importance to this cadre of spirituality - fun and entertainment.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the California Governor declared a state of emergency in seven counties and described the escalating crisis as a tragedy for the state.
"I thank President Bush for granting my request to declare a federal state of emergency in California. The people of California need all the help they can get at this tragic time and this action will allow our citizens to get the assistance they need."
The Governor sent a letter to President Bush requesting direct federal assistance, debris removal and emergency protective measures, including: firefighting, evacuation operations, and sheltering of displaced people and animals for the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura due to the Southern California wildfires.

Left: Chertoff Says FEMA is Prepared

But Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the federal government learned a few lessons after critics blasted its slow response to the devastating 2005 hurricane.

"We sprang into action yesterday," Chertoff said at a brief press conference Tuesday, before departing Reagan Washington National Airport for Southern California.

"So we've been monitoring the situation continuously. The president's been on top of it. We've been on top of it. And we're going to continue to stay ahead of this, as far as we can."
We can be assured that the response to the afluent entertainment capital and myth making center of the US will not be treated in the same manner as New Orleans after it met its disaster and tragedy.

Left: "It was nuclear winter. It was like Armageddon. It looked like the end of the world," Mitch Mendler, a San Diego firefighter, said as he and his crew stopped at a shopping center parking lot to refill their water truck from a hydrant near a restaurant. "I lost count" of how many homes burned.

The fire did not spare the posh and exclusive sectors of the area. By Tuesday morning, more than 5000 acres in Malibu had burned including more than a dozen homes, a church and a luxury faux castle, part of a shopping mall and a fire station. This is sad, however it is dwarfed in comparison to the routine death and destruction facing so many crisis areas of the world. Yes, but!

But since this unfortunate incident involves American icons such as Mel Gibson, Tom and Rita Hanks, Goldie Hawn, Whoppie Goldberg, Tanya Tucker, Victoria Principal, Jennifer Aniston, Bill Murray, Cindy Crawford, Kelsey Grammer, David Charvet, Kurt Russell, Nick Nolte, Jeff Bridges, Mel Brooks, Tatum O’Neal, Rob Reiner, Linda Ronstadt, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Sting, Mark Hamill, Olivia Newton-John, Sean Penn, Robin Wright Penn, David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg, David Duchovny, James Cameron, Pamela Anderson, Val Kilmer, Jim Carrey and Diana Ross, well then let's be dramatic about it and add a little social context.

The residents understand the danger. They understand the importance of getting a head start or a jump on fires such as this that move very quickly and are erratic, so the residents there have been cooperating. Too darn bad we can't warn victims of wars in the same manner and "EVACUATE" them.

I have an idea. How about a new peace movement under the banner of "EVACUATE VICTIMS & ENEMIES NOW (EVEN)?" Then we can all say that we are EVEN!



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