Friday, October 26, 2007

A final San Diego Fires post

As I noted on Wednesday, the weather turned cooler with winds from the west that stifled the westward progress of the fires in San Diego County. However, now the fires are burning on their eastern edges, mainly in National Forests. We had haze yesterday (from the smoke blown offshore coming back onshore) and this morning we had a thick fog. The fires are not all out, but they are being contained.

The number of people in the evacuation centers is dwindling, and people are returning to many areas, including Ramona (the first ones to evacuate on Sunday) but they can't use the water in Ramona yet. Now the stories about "what happened to me" are in the newspapers and on the radio and TV.

The TV news had constant video of homes burning and people walking in the rubble. They rarely showed maps or discussed where fires were burning. Usually, it was announcements of evacuations, discussion of resources, interviews with politicians, or news conferences. The radio news stations (KOGO-600 AM, KFMB-760 AM) had call-in programs 24 hours a day with reports from residents in fire areas, and was more useful but not comprehensive. The newspapers had excellent maps and summaries, but they were a day later. The web had some blogs with pictures and reports, KOGO had a chat room with many comments, and the news outlets had web sites with reports, maps and pictures.

The Reverse 911 phone system worked extremely well, and the evacuation centers worked well. Getting air and ground resources to San Diego was delayed by the distances involved, the other fires that started earlier, and by some bureaucratic red tape. In one case, the US Navy helicopters in San Diego weren't permitted to fight the fires because there weren't enough CalFire observers to ride along on them. They finally got airborne on Wednesday with Navy fire spotters and one CalFire observer for every 3 or 4 helicopters. They've gotta fix that.

You can see up-to-date posts from the San Diego Union-Tribune blog at http://sosdfireblog.blogspot.com/ . There was one today about how good things sometimes happen to good people - read this particular post. The highlight for me was:

"Kate Leidiger's first week on the job certainly as been more eventful than expected. The 20-year-old Del Cerro resident was a brand new EMT with Rural Metro when the fires broke out.

"Monday, her first day on the job, she worked the frontline for more than 30 hours.

"But the grueling job isn't without a few perks. Within the first 18 hours of her shift, she had the chance to shake hands with Gov. Schwarzenegger. The next day, she met Pres. Bush, who tucked her under his arm in an embrace."

Talk about a serious change in someone's life, and a fantastic experience for a young lady just trying to work her job and do good. She really made "family history" this week, didn't she? She will always remember it, and will probably have the pictures to prove it.

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