Why wasn't more key help prepositioned?
October 24, 2007
The response of local authorities to the horrific San Diego County wildfires has been a sharp improvement on what was seen during the 2003 Cedar and Paradise fires. But we're not sure the same holds for state and federal officials.
It first became apparent last Thursday that the expected Sunday ar rival of hot, windy Santa Ana conditions would put drought-stricken Southern California at grave risk. Sure enough, wildfires broke out in many areas. Why weren't U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard planes already at nearby airfields and ready to drop water or retardant, by prearrangement of the Pentagon and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger?
Instead, The Associated Press repor ted that the Pentagon's OK of the governor's request for such planes to help in San Diego County did not come until yesterday morning. The planes won't join the fight until this morning - six days after exper ts first warned of a possible Santa Anafueled conflagration and nearly three days after the Witch Creek blaze began its rampage from Ramona west to Rancho Santa Fe and south to Poway. This is inex plicable.
California has led the way in coordinating regional efforts to attack blazes that threaten to overwhelm local fire departments. But given the increasing frequency of catastrophic wildfires, perhaps it is time the interagency approach gave way to a centralized authority in which, at a time of crisis, a fire czar could dispatch resources on a moment's notice instead of having to tend to bureaucratic niceties.
Such a fire czar could also be an advocate for better funding. In May, five former U.S. Forest Service chiefs warned Congress that inadequate resources imperiled fire suppression efforts. In a telephone interview yesterday, Dan Smith - a senior official with the National Association of State Foresters - painted a grim picture. Between drier conditions, a decline in forest health and the millions of homes built in recent years in fire-prone areas, preventing huge wildfires is "more difficult and more complex" than ever, Smith said. "I hope the appropriators ... understand the big picture."
We hope so, too - because when it comes to both funding and functionality, the big picture needs a close look.
Thank God, its coming out now..while the firestorms are still raging. I hope folks take notice and bring it to the forefront. Shades of NOLA my dear reader...which I had hoped wouldn't happen.
Tags: San Diego, Fires, bureaucratic bullshit,