It's nearly Halloween, but the only sign of autumn is the sight of flames engulfing the surrounding hills. It's fire season in Los Angeles.
It happens every year. In fact, it often occurs twice a year; spring and fall. However, the spring fires are never as drastic as they are in autumn. By then the hillsides have had all summer to dry out. I can only recall it raining twice, maybe three times in the last six months. The rest of the time the sun beats down on the landscape, turning it to tinder.
Of course, the national media coverage during the first day would have you believe that only Malibu was burning. Isn't it great to know that our media is obsessed with all things celebrity?
About a year ago I read Mike Davis' Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster. You have to love a book that has a chapter titled, "The Case for Letting Malibu Burn." Part of the author's point is that fires are a naturally occurring event in the ecosystem, pushed west by the winds. It is unavoidable. Yet each year, more and more homes are being built in the hills. Did I say homes? I meant mansions. Take a look at the homes being threatened high aloft in those hills. I guarantee not one of them is worth less than a million.
Inevitably, there are comparisons to Katrina. I heard a newscaster today say that FEMA had learned its lesson after Katrina and that events were much more orderly. However, the real difference is that the homes being threatened (with few exceptions) are those of the wealthy (or at least upper middle class). These are the people who vote and make campaign contributions. Of course every resource was used.
Although the flames bear a certain amount of predictability, no one knew what day they would arrive, unlike Katrina. Two years later and many victims of Katrina are still displaced, still trying to collect their lives. So don't feel too bad about the family that lost their multi-million dollar home, I'm sure they'll be just fine.
(My sympathies to the middle class in more suburban areas who will be more adversely affected by this disaster.)