I appreciate Ms. Launders’ June 14 letter that questions why the Arizona fire has raged on so long.
Looking back the last few years in California, many question why any fire goes on for weeks, even months, with today’s modern firefighting equipment, trained personnel and advanced atmospheric surveillance technology.
During these events we wonder why firefighters can eventually extinguish a fire covering hundreds of square miles, yet cannot respond “adequately” when it is still small and seemingly more manageable.
Daily, even hourly, news updates report the number of human structures burned, yet make no mention or estimate of all the losses of homes, hunting grounds and habitat for wildlife that are also destroyed, nor the animals themselves that are killed or escape the fire only to run into walled housing tracts or fenced vineyards.
I worked for 12 years in this county as a criminalist for the Department of of Justice crime laboratory and analyzed physical evidence collected from many local fire and arson investigations. Incidental to working with fire investigators, I overheard frequent frustration and dissatisfaction from many of them — not with their training, tools or equipment, but with all the bureaucracy and politics involved with (and impeding) firefighting efforts.
Many fires involve not only our local fire response resources but those of state and federal organizations as well. How much does intra- and inter- agency bureaucracy and politics interfere with our firefighters’ abilities to extinguish controllable fires early on while waiting for different entities to — if not agree — then at least formulate a plan for a response? How much larger do these fires grow while waiting for communication, discussion and consensus?
It would seem a more proactive assessment and readiness for a “worst case scenario” fire incident would bring earlier, massive suppression efforts forward before damage is so horrific.
While appreciative of the bountiful rains last winter and the beautiful spring with its greenery now turned golden, we collectively hold our breath waiting for the inevitable fires that will break out in the next few months.
Hopefully, learning from recent history, the fire resource managers at all levels of government are actively pursuing improved methods to respond more effectively and will no longer allow vast areas of our local wilderness and habitat to be destroyed due to human inefficiency.
Sandra Rakestraw lives in Atascadero.