By Janel Sullivan/RaiderNet DailyÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â
This week, as I was looking for a topic to discuss in the Flip Side, there was one thing I did not really want to write about-the California wildfires. Guess what? That is going to be the exact topic of this week’s column. Surprise!
Let me be clear. The reason I did not want to write about the wildfires is because I just recently wrote a Flip Side on global warming and the environment. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the wildfires in California deserve some special attention.
They did cause Marie Osmond’s fainting spell, after all.
First, let’s take a moment to become more familiar with fire. According to Smokey the Bear’s website, “Wildfire is one of the most destructive natural forces known to mankind. While sometimes caused by lightning, nine out of ten wildfires are human-caused. Put simply, “wildfire” is the term applied to any unwanted and unplanned fire burning in forest, shrub or grass.”
Fires are a part of the Earth’s natural cleansing system. Ecosystems rely on routine burns for regeneration. Smokey the Bear says, “Without periodic fire, plants and animals requiring nutrients and vegetation from other parts of the cycle disappear. Fire, in places where it is a crucial part of the ecosystem, promotes vegetative and wildlife diversity, helps maintain wilderness and wildland areas, and eliminates the heavy fuel accumulations which can ultimately lead to catastrophic wildfire.”
Actually, past actions to suppress forest fires may have hurt us more than help us.
Back in California, 679 square miles have already burned and more destruction can be expected. “It will not end … until it reaches the ocean or the winds turn around,” said San Diego Fire Battalion Chief Bruce Cartelli.
You may be wondering, “Why California?” According to CNN.com “The combination of dry terrain, searing heat and hammering winds created…” the perfect circumstances for fire.
As the winds have shifted, President Bush has declared the California fires a major disaster, and has boosted federal aid to the area. This will help speed relief efforts.
Some people have been allowed back in their homes, with the caution to conserve electricty, and still more have been evacuated when the wind changed.
“The National Weather Service said a red-flag warning for extreme gusty winds was in effect for San Diego through 6 p.m. PT (9 p.m. ET) Wednesday.” (www.CNN.com)
The President also said he plans to tour the affected sites on Thursday. Governer Schwarzenegger said he was “heartbroken” after visiting areas the fire had ravaged.
Almost one million people have been evacuated from their homes. Most are staying with family and friends, while others are staying in the various shelters, though many have opted to simply stay at a hotel.
And then comes the celebrities. Houses belonging to Tom Hanks, Jennifer Aniston, and Sean Penn (to name a few) have been threatened by the wildfires. I am glad that on different news broadcasts regular people are being featured more than the celebs. I think that’s good, it proves that a situation can still be serious whether or not your favorite actor/actress is in danger.
The situation in California is not great, though things are looking up in certain areas. The Red Cross has been especially helpful, since a fire rates a five on the level of disaster meter which means areas hurt by fire will receive aid quickly. The efforts of the Red Cross and National Guard in moving people and supplies have been running smoothly to the delight of many. Even though California does not offer the best working conditions as of now, I’m sure the fact that the relief efforts are organized, and are proving to be effective, is giving people positive reinforcement.
So how can you help? A Red Cross representative said the best way to help is to send money. That way the organization can direct funds to areas that need them the most.
Now I just want to offer major snaps to the members of the Southern California firefighters. I would especially like to extend my deepest gratitude and compassion to the 34 injured firemen and their families.
The firefighters have been battling 18 separate blazes for four days now, and even though they were given a brief reprieve when the wind changed, their numbers are still spread thin. These men and women are definitely the heroes here.
Overall the wildfires in California are a pretty serious situation. I’ve been on CNN.com for the past three days reading about them and only in the past 24 hours has the top story changed. (And do you know what they changed the top story to? Global warming causing ice sheets to melt!)
Routine burns are good for the environment, but this does show nature’s wrath. Plus now evidence has been found that some fires were set intentionally. It is sad to think that someone would do something like that, especially when they know the power fire can have. It really is something that is difficult to control. Now the lives of many firefighters are on the line. I understand this is their job, but really, intentionally starting a fire and expecting firefighters to fix it is like when kids in the lunchroom purposely throw their food everywhere because they expect the custodians to fix it.
So, California, my sympathy is with you. And I’m pretty sure you’ll be sending the same vibes back at me when Upstate New York is buried under six feet of snow.