HAMID KOLAHDOUZ. Sports Columnist.
As we all know San Diego is burning, California is burning, the country is burning and unfortunately the heroic firemen and pilots fighting the vast fires are spread thin.
While this dire situation isn’t a particularly new phenomenon to the American west, it is an extremely unusual and unsettling phenomenon in early May and thanks to climate change it’s likely to become the norm. One has to ask: if fire season has started this early and so intensely, then how horrific will it look in September or October?
In an ideal situation, the politicians in Sacramento and Washington would find a way to allocate the resources necessary to hire enough firemen, pilots and equipment in a country as wealthy as America. Instead Sacramento and Washington are dominated by ineptitude and stupidity. In the very time climate change and or normal western drought cycles are making conditions perfect for widespread wildfires, politicians, whose sole focus is austerity (unless of course government spending comes in the form of corporate welfare or invading other countries for their natural resources), are making major cuts to the government agencies tasked with fighting the fires. Around the state, Fire Departments have had to cut firemen from their ranks and in other parts of the West U.S Forest service tanker pilots are forced to fly rickety transport planes from the 1950’s in the fight against wildfires and pilots have actually died because their plans fell apart mid-flight. It would seem within reason that a country as wealthy as America could find the funds to properly meet the demands needed to fight fires and equip the brave men who risk their lives fighting the fires as best as possible.
The firemen do the best with the resources available to them, but they literally cannot be everywhere to fight fires and protect property, with what they have now. Last week there were nine active wildfires at once in San Diego County and firemen and air support are stretched thin. In the absence of competency among politicians, there are other solutions: volunteer wildfire fire departments. When professional militaries are stretched thin, militias are raised to fight the battle near home. By adapting this concept to the battle against wildfires, Southern Californians could responsibly aid the firemen in the daunting task of the protection of their lives and property. This concept wouldn’t be prudent elsewhere in the rural, lightly populated west, but in Southern California where massive residential areas are threatened by wildfires it fits. The government currently deploys prison crews to fight wildfires and they are essentially volunteers, or slaves depending on how you see it, so it seems reasonable that non-criminal citizens could do the same in an organized, trained manner.
Another solution is already in play, which is using military aircraft to fight fires. Unfortunately, military air support wasn’t actively used until Thursday morning, two days into the fires, because of bureaucratic red tape that prevented deploying the military off base immediately. This is odd because the government has no problem breaking international law and using military aircraft to kill people in foreign countries like Pakistan and Yemen. There isn’t any legitimate excuse for not using the military earlier, but thankfully Navy and Marine helicopters made a major positive impact once they were finally deployed. In the inevitable fires of the near future, military aircraft should continue to be deployed to support firefighters around the country.
This May, firefighters were able to protect structures throughout the county because unoccupied resources were shifted south to San Diego but once large fires inevitably start in the fall or summer those resources will already be fighting other fires around the state. San Diego needs to create a county-wide fire department rather than relying upon a patchwork of local departments to fight wildfires. To do this, taxes will have to be raised, but every initiative in recent years to raise funds for firefighting efforts has been shot down by voters. Citizens of San Diego need to realize that they can’t have their cake and eat it to. Realistically in the current state of government in California, the only way to effectively protect the county from wildfires is to raise taxes and properly fund and expand local fire departments and or create a county fire department.by