Friday, October 26, 2007

“That’ll teach ‘em!”

I don’t normally write about things that “don’t concern me,” and I try not to speak of things that I know little about, but sometimes I figure I might just as well “let it rip” and let someone tell me where I’m going wrong.

The conflagration in Southern California is one of those subjects that don’t necessarily concern me, other than the fact that the people affected are fellow Americans. Also, I’m no expert on the subject of the fires; BUT, some things are just common sense.

Amadeo recently posted on the California fires from the aspect of the wind and how the wind’s considerable energy has been the prime offender in the stoking of these incredibly costly fires and this is mostly true, however….

I commented that these fires might never have started at all, if not for the malicious arsonists that set them. These foul pyromaniacs, these murdering terrorists, should be hunted down and kept along with their brothers-in-terror down in the holding cells of Guantanamo.

What Al Qaeda has not been able to do in 6 years of trying, these homegrown terrorists have managed to accomplish with very little effort at all. And, as long as the conditions continue to allow it, these punks can keep on setting fires with very little chance of ever getting caught.

One of Amadeo’s commenters stated that Nature uses fires to prune her forests and Amadeo agreed, stating that he’d seen exactly that while driving through the thousands of burned over acres in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

Everything both of these fellows say is true, but… Yellowstone, and in fact Wyoming, neither, are anything like Southern California. The “rules of nature” they speak of, totally valid as they are, don’t apply to San Diego County and its millions of residents mixed in with its thousands of acres of undeveloped park and brush land. It’s apples and oranges.

People in California can't simply move their homes out of the way of a fire, and because of that, many—desperate to save their most valued possession, their homes—will end up putting themselves in extreme danger trying to save those homes. Some have already died trying.

Several mindsets must change. Californians are going to have to stop doing stupid things that set themselves up for these continued exposure to fires, mudslides and earthquakes. For now though, lets just talk about wildfires.

There are ways to build homes so that they do not lend themselves to easily catching fire from flying embers or even to be resistant to casual near fires. Thing is, it costs more; so many folks opt not to do it. Perhaps code should be rewritten to make fire resistant homes the law and not an option.

But there’s another set of culprits. I like to call them “conservation purists.” These folks believe that people and nature shall ne’er the twain meet. These persons are almost as bad as the monsters that are setting the fires, because through legislation, they have set the conditions making it possible for the arsonists to be so effective.

Just as Amadeo and his commenter state, forest and brush land must be cleared or “pruned” to keep the really big fires from happening. This is even truer in the heavily populated areas of California where huge swathes of dry brush land are interspersed with equally large tracks of housing located in and around the dry brush land. One of the primary problems is that the “purists” have made it impossible for the land to be made safe from the current kind of conflagration style fires.

There are several ways to make land more “inferno resistant.” Small control fires can be set during windless cool rainier times to get rid of the years of windfalls and brush build up. Fire trails can be bulldozed to allow access to firefighters and to brush clearing crews.

Sometimes, the brush just needs to be cleaned up. As much as “the purists” don’t like the idea of it, still, it’s as simple as that. You go in, gather it up into huge piles with heavy equipment; and during less arid, non-windy times, safely burn it up. However, to the purists, doing such a thing to “pristine land” is anathema.

Southern California is not Wyoming. The people there need to start realizing that they must now manage their brushy wildlife areas, and not wait to let Mother Nature have her final say.

I know this is cynical and probably mean on my part, but I think secretly many of the conservation purists are delighted to see all those homes burn up. “That’ll teach ‘em!” I can hear them cackle while rubbing their hands together gleefully.


KA said...

not all california fires are estarted by arsons. It's a dry place, and inside teh husks of dry plants are gases, under the oppressive heat, the gas pressure increases until-poof- spontaneously combust. People in california know that. Its just part of the natural cycle to have purging burns....just not normally when the winds are so damn rough.

PhilippinesPhil said...

I'd like to see that, spontaneously combusting plants. You'll have to show that to me in the science books, but I'm sure if you say its so, its probably true.

Just the same, what's your point? Did you get mine? This "natural cycle" you speak of, the authorities cannot afford to allow this "natural" thing to be the way of it anymore. If it was just peopleless wilderness then great, but with thousands of homes in places where before there were none then waiting for the "cycle" to kick in and burn it off will result in these "towering infernos" every few years. And it won't matter if the fires are started due to "spontaneous combustion" or from some sicko, houses by the score are gonna go up in smoke.

You aren't one of those "purists" I was complaining about are ya? ...grin... Come on, out with it!

Ed said...

When I see something like that, I just have to shake my head. We do people decide to start building houses in the middle of some of the most continuously arid regions of the United States? Why is Phoenix built out in the middle of a desert? Why is New Orleans built below sea level right along the coast? As long as people are being stupid, I suppose mother nature with the aid of a few arsonist come along to clean up the gene pool.

P.S. I'm not condoning the arsonists.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Come on Ed, you know the answer. There's hardly any good places to build homes anymore, if there ever were. You have yours in the farm belt; how dare you live in a place where we could be growing crops to feed the world! In California, there are no other places to expand into, other than into the hills and brushland. So be it. Therefore, measures must now be taken to properly manage those areas so that wildfire, mudslide, and earthquake effects are ameliorated. Where would you have people live Mr. Heartless?

KA said...

Lol, no i'm not a purist. But, unlike the suckers in other states who want to be experts on california wildfires... I've actually lived it and know what is/is not normal in th state of california.

My house is mainly made of concrete, bricks - the roof? tile. The way my house is decorated removes all heavy items from anything higher than 5 feet. Why? because of earthquakes. if that falls down on one of us, Then it's goodnight nurse. My house can also sway and move with the movement of the earth so that it doesnt crumble in a quake. I've been in some bad earthquakes, but I rarely worried about hte floor falling from beneath me, or the roof falling on top of me. Most of the time, I worried about going back to sleep...

Californias ARE ready for natural disasters. We get a lot of brush fires, we get a lot of earthquakes, we get mud slides - but they don't usually make the news because it's just Situation Normal. Non-fatal and often resolved in minutes.

These fires are part of a natural cycle, sure. I've seen a brush fire almost every year I've lived in California and those don't make the news... and most of hte time I don't care. They'll hit the edge of town and stop. I'm not quick to blame Arsons, terrorists, or George Bush over something that is actually natural. This years is a lot worse than others because of certain variables out of human control. I'm ok with that as long as theres an effort to get people out and then try to save their personable property.

Californians DO prepare for these natural disasters, but it's kind of like having a Zombie plan... you can plan and plan for the worst of the worst, and the last thing you expected will always hit you.

Amadeo said...

I doff my hat to your incisive and defensible analogy between Wyoming and California.

We Californians are wont to "encroach" into Nature's beautiful but deceptively dangerous ecosystems, without necessarily learning and acquiring the basic skills and precautionary measures to survive and co-exist in them. But this is true to most other states that are similarly blest whether coastal or inland.

I just remembered our own Oakland Hills fire in 1991 that razed over 3000 homes in one lazy Saturday afternoon. Now, the question that popped up in my mind is whether any and all precautionary measures could have averted that catastrophe. A firestorm once started and abetted by unusually fierce winds will create its own weather system that in most times will defy most fire-preventive measures.

PhilippinesPhil said...

I guess you're referring to me as one of these "out of state sucker experts." You would be mostly right. I've lived in California three times for several years but all my "time served" there did was to convince me that its only a nominally nice place to visit. Actually, passing through is best. California for Californians is what I say, or to Mexicans, either way.

Actually, I have followed the news from California, including the annual rolling fire events.

Personally, if Californians want to fatalistically accept these Santa Ana fires as part of "a cycle," then more power to 'em. You seem to ignore the fact that people are spreading out into brushy areas that used to burn up with little notice or comment. I've seen some of these places. They actually have trees and brush within a few feet of their homes. Its nice to have shade, but that shade also makes great tinder.

I can see it now though. The government of California, it being the "giving" agency that it is, will probably pass laws similarly to what FEMA does for people who build their homes on beaches. How nice of FEMA to pay people from our taxes all that money to build again and again in the same areas where storms regularly wash away homes.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Actually Amadeo, I am very familiar with the Oakland Hills. I ran them for years, the entire ridgeline in fact, all the way into the Berkeley Hills.

I remember the vegetation being very thick, lots of huge trees and bushes, just as the homeowners like it down in the south as well. Its the same old story, stack wood and tinder around your house, even if its living materials, and watch what happens when things dry out and fire rolls through. Like I said, its common sense.

KA said...

Please notice that even though many people around my area lose their homes... My family still hasnt. There's a pretty good reason.

Anyway, we help Tornado victims rebuild all the time, along with people living in flood planes etc. I mean...seriously. It's called "tornado Alley!" At least californians have safety measures placed with fire gaps, earthquake-specific building codes, packed dirt to prevent mudslides etc and a few other things i can't think of right now cos I've got to run to class...toodles.

Ed said...

I guess to figure out where everyone can live we should study Monaco which has a population density of 43,000 people per square mile, the highest in the world. The United States only has 81.5 according to the latest population estimate on 2 Oct. 2007.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Good to hear Kat, and make sure you knock wood when you say stuff like that. I'm a little superstitious. And basically you're saying that no matter where you live stuff happens.

Ed, PLEASE! Let's not compare us to the Europeans... You had me feeling a little queezy there for a second.

KA said...

It's more about researching where you live, and planning accordingly.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Katana, sounds like your family has done all the right things to keep the home safe from fire (knock wood). Aside from that, do you think the brushland now interspersed with all these thousands of homes should be kept clear during the "non-fire cycle," or are you more on the "purist" side, and believe that nature will do as it will? Just curious; and I promise not to hound you no matter what you answer. Really!

Amadeo said...

Speaking of stats, here's one astounding one I learned the other day.

95% of Californians live in 5% of its total land area.

Total population of CA should already be close to 40 million, counting the uncounted.

And I believe it is more populous than NY. And a recent emigre to Montana confirmed that that Big Sky state has less than 1 mil residents.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Wow. Those are amazing stats, and they make sense once you consider the geography of California--lots of mountains and deserts.

As far as the population, I guess its the beautiful weather, because I wasn't all that thrilled with other things there, such as the cost of living, the gangs in all the cities, and the taxes.

Still, when I was young and living in the barracks with access to free chow, cheap public transportation, and lots of things to do and see, I have to admit it seemed like a pretty special place.