Sunday, May 27, 2007

Fire Fighting in the US

Somebody is finally going to look at the consequences of building in wilderness areas, and the expectation that maybe the fire departments shouldn't be killing themselves to protect somebody's house that probably shouldn't be there in the first place.

A blaze that killed five federal firefighters last year has emboldened those who question the cost of saving the ever expanding number of homes on the fringe of wilderness.

From the report on the firefighter deaths: The Twin Pines community is identified in the Mountain Area Safety Taskforce (MAST) Report as a very high to extreme threat area for potential destructive impacts from wildland fire due to physical orientation, surrounding dense chaparral/Manzanita, exposure to upslope winds, and alignment with potential Santa Ana winds. We're building in places just asking for trouble, with no regard for the consequences to those expected to safeguard that dream home mountain retreat. And people die, good people, for someone else's property. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Let me add this. Mixed in with the bravado and Smokey the Bear and the Machismo and what all else, every time the reporters talk about fires, they use the same, wrong, language.

A fire engulfed Griffith Park on Tuesday, destroying about a quarter of the hilly urban refuge before being brought under control Wednesday night.

Somehow or other, a fire laid seige to a town. It's like when you declare war against a tactic or emotion. It doesn't help or clarify or explain, it just sensationalizes without informing. And that is what is wrong with the news media. Fires don't destroy land, they're a natural part of the cycle of things. Houses and buildings get destroyed, but time after time after time the teevee especially, talks about the acres destroyed, when fire is a needed part of a healthy ecosystem.

And it's this ignorance and sensationalism that cheapens and weakens our discourse in this country, that keeps us from doing the right thing in so many cases, like in Iraq.

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