Patricia Nell Warren

The Perfect Firestorm

Filed By Patricia Nell Warren | October 25, 2007 12:32 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: election campaigns, ENDA, terrorism

This is the third afternoon I've felt split in two -- caught between the three fronts of a perfect firestorm. Watching the TV news, I ping-pong this way and that. First Washington and the firestorm around ENDA. Then nationally, to the election-campaign firestorm. Then back to local news channels here in the Southland, to track the literal firestorm that is still unfolding, with Santa Ana winds blowing and wildfires raging from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border, and from Malibu west to the high desert. With almost a million people evacuated, thousands of homes and businesses burned, and hundreds of miles of blackened landscape — it’s a war zone, different from Katrina, but possibly just as devastating as a major hurricane when it’s all over.

Here in the central city where I live, it's the eye of the storm -- unnaturally quiet, people going about their business, the traffic possibly worse owing to evacuees driving into town to camp with friends or family. Yet Los Angeles is literally sitting in a ring of fire -- it's own perfect storm. The color of the sky is getting close to that eerie brownish haze, and the sun to that blood-red glow, that we saw during the 1992 L.A. Riots.

Once again it's clear that our government has been caught flat-footed, as they were during Katrina. Earlier this year, according to the Huffington Post, the Government Accountability Office (which is Congress's nonpartisan auditor) published some stark warnings about the limp nature of federal fire-fighting preparedness. With all the talk of creative terrorism and one of the fires already declared a possible arson, one would think that our government would have paid attention. Yet today there were reports of Homeland Security firefighting aircraft sitting on the ground, unused yet, because of some snafu in procedures.

This is the same Congress that we hope will be caring and far-sighted enough to pass ENDA -- yet it looks like they can't find their way out of a wet paper bag -- let along a paper bag that's on fire.

Copyright (c) 2007 by Patricia Nell Warren. All rights reserved.

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My thoughts go out to you and all of SoCal, Patricia. Hopefully the government can get its act together and get the situation under control...

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 25, 2007 4:12 PM

My dad's in Escondido. At one point, the fires approached from three directions to within 4 miles of his home and he was ready to flee. But now the wind's died and things are looking a lot more positive.

So many people have lost their homes, and not all of them are the well-to-do and generously-insured. Even the latter, money can't replace mementos.

Stay safe.

I have family in Malibu, and friends who have been unable thus far to contact their own families in the area. I just hope this doesn't turn into another Katrina, but I also ain't holding my breath expecting it.

I hate to say it, but i don't think they've been caught flat footed. I just think they don't give a shit.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | October 25, 2007 6:50 PM

I've had cousins evacuated but the one I'm more worried about isn't in fire danger and isn't likely to be, either -- she's at that about 25 mile distance where the particles in the air are too small for the body's defense system in nose and throat to catch them before they get into the lungs where they do real harm.

The masks that are capable of filtering particles that small are sold out in her area and it's estimated that it will take weeks before it's safe to breathe without them.

We're all offering to evacuate her to a round-robin of family visits in many states east of the coastal mountains.

I just don't know what to think about this Congress anymore.