Tags: california | fires

California Fires Raise Many Questions

Wednesday, 24 Oct 2007 10:30 AM

By Lowell Ponte

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Growing up on Southern California’s fault line, I learned to love the tremors that as elementary school children we felt every week.

Earthquakes were terrifying and destructive, but each quake also carried an important lesson — the material possessions we traded life’s precious hours for and looked to as a security blanket could be destroyed at any instant.

As I write this under a blood red rising moon, smelling acrid smoke with every breath, I’ve begun to ponder the lessons to be learned from living on this fire line that by one estimate this week turned 900,000 Californians into evacuees.

San Diego County exemplified calm and courage under fire, with neighbors so eager to help one another that shelters had to turn away an overabundant flow of donated food, clothing, and other material items.

One of every six county residents became an evacuee during the fires. But as dry Santa Ana winds blasted fires towards the sea, more than half of county residents contemplated evacuation and which possessions should be saved.

Weighed in this balance of natural destruction, a wedding picture or baby photo was suddenly recognized as more valuable than trinkets that cost far more in mere dollars.

Heroic firefighters put their lives on this line to defend homes. Near where I dwell, wealthy folks such as conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza live in ritzy Rancho Santa Fe. Firefighters stopped the Witch Creek fire’s tongues of flame licking the wall surrounding one of Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ homes. Several other multimillion-dollar homes there went up in smoke.

As the embers cool, investigators in public and private will begin asking some hard questions, including how in blazes these fires happened: Were some of the purportedly wild fires scorching more than 600 square miles of Southern California this week set by border-crossing Islamist terrorists?

San Diego County, hit hardest by the fires, is the Pacific Command Center of the U.S. Navy, home port to several of the warships now in and around the Persian Gulf, and home to the huge U.S. Marines training facility Camp Pendleton.

As many as one third of San Diego area residents are present or former active military personnel or otherwise employed in defense-related ways.

San Diego is also home to a large community of Chaldean Christians who fled their native Iraq to escape Muslim persecution.

At least two al-Qaida suicide skyjackers on 9/11 had lived and trained in San Diego.

Although a new Osama bin Laden video was issued at almost exactly the same time these fires began, and might have contained a coded command to his operatives to carry out planned arsons, it makes sense that al-Qaida has claimed no credit for the fires.

These blazes have cost Federal, state and local governments an estimated $100 million in fire fighting expenses, and have cost Southern Californians and their insurance companies billions.

An Oxford-educated engineer, bin Laden knows the power of asymmetrical warfare wherein a few matches and bottles of gasoline can cause millions of times their cost in damage to enemies, from military families in San Diego to morally-corrupting Hollywood stars in Malibu.

But bin Laden would probably be embarrassed, in the wake of his astonishing terrorist “achievement” on 9/11, to be seen resorting to mere fire setting around the homes of innocent people. This is the sort of insanity Earth Liberation Front enviro-terrorists used in San Diego in 2003, torching a large housing development under construction.

Other possibilities: the fires were all accidental, like the one north of Los Angeles reportedly touched off by a spark from welding equipment.

Or, perhaps, one or more of these fires were ignited accidentally by an illegal alien’s campfire, as has happened before in Southern California. Even if evidence points this way, do not expect the liberal media to report anything this politically incorrect — or this likely to give inconvenient fuel to critics of our liberal border policies.

The Sierra Club not long ago nearly had a schism over the huge ecological damage done by illegal aliens but voted that its deepest loyalty was not to the environment, but to the power illegal aliens could give to the Democratic Party.

At least one of these major fires reportedly began almost simultaneously in three different locations — a likely sign of arson.

A recent major blaze in Arizona was set by an unemployed firefighter who saw firebuggery as a great way to get re-hired and make money. And some arsonists will set a large fire to blow smoke over the destruction of a specific target, e.g., the property of someone they hate.

Some have been quick to exploit the fires. California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer blamed their destructiveness on the war in Iraq, arguing that the war diverted personnel and equipment that could have been used in fire-fighting by California’s National Guard.

Environmentalists have used the fires to push their agenda against global warming. But recent dryness in the West is more likely caused by natural drought cycles and by a Pacific Ocean phenomenon, known as La Nina, associated with reduced rainfall.

Contrary to ignorant Al Gore-like assumptions, global warming could very well bring more rainfall to the Southwestern United States — the kind of enhanced rainfall that once grew the trees that turned into Arizona’s Petrified Forest in what today is desert.

TV and radio talk-host Glenn Beck deserves credit for having Competitive Enterprise Institute experts Chris Horner and R.J. Smith explain how radical government environmental policies under President Bill Clinton interfered with rational forest and brush management, and set America up for today’s catastrophic super-fires.

A typical example of such government mismanagement came in a Southern California beach community a few years ago where residents were prohibited from clearing brush near their homes, lest they harm an “endangered species” of rat that lived there.

When fire, a natural part of the region’s ecology, recurred it burned the homes, the brush, and the legally-privileged rats.

Now we have become fire-burned experimental animals for left-wing firebrands.

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