Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Southern California Burns

California Fires Destroy Hundreds of Businesses and Homes
Raging wildfires in Southern California have destroyed an estimated 1,300 homes and businesses and forced as many as a half-million people to evacuate their homes, state and local officials said Tuesday. Large tracts of brushland and suburbs have been blackened by more than a dozen separate fires.

Hot, gusting winds made the advancing flames nearly impossible for firefighters to control, officials said. The winds were expected to keep blowing through Tuesday, and perhaps longer.

The worst conditions continued to be in San Diego County, where large sections were under mandatory evacuation orders. County officials said Tuesday that "about 1,000" structures had been destroyed in the area since the fires started Sunday. About 300 houses and businesses were destroyed elsewhere, according the governor's Office of Emergency Management.

President George W. Bush declared Southern California a disaster area, and federal troops started to join the evacuation and firefighting effort. About 800 marines from Camp Pendleton, which is north of San Diego, were made available while six specially modified C-130 cargo aircraft were being flown to California to help with firefighting.
San Bernardino Fire Capt. Grant Hubbell tackles a burning house
in Running Springs near Lake Arrowhead.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
October 23, 2007

More Evacuations and New Fires

High temperatures and fierce winds returned to Southern California this morning, complicating the efforts to control a string of wildfires that grew overnight, prompting new evacuations. San Diego County authorities estimated 1,000 homes had burned there, and a second person was reported to have died, this one in the Santa Clarita area north of Los Angeles.

Fires sprang up in San Diego and Los Angeles counties, and new evacuations were ordered in Orange and San Diego counties. Weary firefighters fought major blazes that have burned since the weekend in seven counties, with containment days away at the soonest.
. . .
Estimates of the monetary losses start in the tens of millions, and the cost of fighting the fires was expected to at least match that number. Help was on the way after the White House declared a state of emergency, clearing the way for additional federal aid.
. . .
Flames regionwide crossed class lines as easily as the arid terrain, destroying homes from the beach enclave of Malibu to the vacation retreats around Lake Arrowhead, south through Orange and San Diego counties with its pricey communities of Del Mar and Solana Beach, to Mexico. The conflagrations were on the level of four years ago, when some 3,600 homes were destroyed and about 22 people died.

Ariel Yue peeks out of a tent in the parking lot at
Qualcomm Stadium on Monday night.
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)
October 23, 2007
Full story: LA Times

Please keep the residents of Southern California (as well as those who suffer and risk the loss of life and limb everyday all over the world) in your duas. Recommended duas for this crisis in particular:

Allaahumma 'asqinaa ghaythan mugheethan maree'an
maree'an, naafi'an ghayra dhaarrin, 'aajilan ghayra 'aajilin.

(O Allah, shower upon us abundant rain,
beneficial not harmful, swiftly and not delayed.)

Allaahumma ‘aghithnaa, Allaahumma ‘aghithnaa,
Allaahumma ‘aghithnaa.

(O Allah, send us rain. O Allah, send us rain.
O Allah, send us rain.)

Allaahum-masqi ‘ibaadaka, wa bahaa ‘imaka,
wanshur rahmataka, wa ‘ahyi baladakal-mayyita.

(O Allah, give water to Your slaves, and Your livestock,
and spread Your mercy, and revive Your dead land.)


Amer said...

insha'Allah this catastrophe ends soon.

When I was in High School, I loved the band Bad Religion (who's leader singer is now a professor at UCLA)..and about three years ago they came out with a song, more relevant than ever, entitled Los Angeles is Burning, in which they, as I understood it, parody and ridicule the residential angst and confusion directed at these fires. It's truly fascinating how interested we and the media (consequently, I guess..) are in these fires, every year, every fire, everywhere in LA.

As with most events (particularly those in Los Angeles), they always manage to escape (or the media manages to ignore) their place in a historical context. This is causing a lot of problems I think..we're recreating the situation, if not making it worst. Ecological historian Stephen Pyne put this well when suggesting that we need to identify our shifts from one "regime of fire" to another:

Fire looks the way it does on Earth today because of what people have done and not done, the ways we’ve started fires, the ways we’ve stopped them, or tried to stop them, the ways we’ve moved fuel around. That is to say, we create fuel and can put in fire where it would not naturally occur or under different rhythms or patterns, what you would call regimes. interview on Earth&Sky

I'll just conclude this ramble (which hopefully did not come off as desensitized - my heart and prayers go out to all the victims of these fires) by, again, stressing the need to situate it within a historical context and recognize our creation of new fire regimes. If you're not familiar with the history of LA fires, Let Malibu Burn: A Political History of the Fire Coast by professor Davis (at UCI) at Radical Urban Theory, is a great, short outline.

There's a reason these fires get harsher every year.


Zahra Billoo said...

Food for thought: would OUR communities be as concerned if these fires were ravaging thru say Compton and Lynwood?

Marya Bangee said...

well - its obvious that the fires raging through the wealthier areas easily got more coverage. that's media bias right there.

Amer said...

I'm not sure a fire in almost tree-less South LA would be as devastating. A major cause of these fires (referring back to the Pyne's new regimes) is that construction in suburban and nearly picturesque (to use urban historian Dolores Hayden's word) neighborhoods has increased the proximity, thus tension, between property and fuel, that is, greenery.

With the question of media, though, I highly doubt inner-cities would get half the amount of attention as Malibu, San Diego, and Ranchos This-and-That. There's a consistent reference to the victims of these fires as being ejected from their homes - what about, then, the massive slum evictions occurring on regular a basis? The consistently ridiculous Section 8 evictions? The media is quick to dismiss those acts of 'urban renewal' (ugh).. whereas this 'natural disaster' actually disrupts the comfort of some of the most comfortable in SoCal.

Kenneth Noguera said...

I have a suspicion that this could be terroism from bin laddin and his cell flunkies another way to get back at america.What do you think not possible?. If so we maybe under siege.