The gale-force winds are taking a break, but fire fighters are still struggling. Here are a few stories that define our state on fire.
A photo early last week pretty much says it all about this rendition of “California Burning,” which really isn’t the title of a disaster movie but easily could be.
A young couple stands hand-in-hand in a Northern California vineyard, having just finished their wedding vows. A wildfire rages in the background. The newlyweds are wearing smoke masks.
The wedding was last weekend in Kenwood, not far from the roaring Kincaid Fire. The couple flew in from Chicago for their big day. Fire or no fire, they were getting hitched.
Nearly two-thirds of the state’s residents faced some level of wildfire threat last week, and many of them were hopping mad about having no electric power while coping with the stress and anxiety of staying alive.
Millions lost power as companies flipped the switch, knowing full well that their overhead power lines were in danger — and were the root cause of some of the fires raging across California.
Meanwhile, there’s not a lot power companies can do in such circumstances, except shut down the power. Putting overhead lines under ground would cost billions the companies don’t have.
All of which suggests maybe those companies should be controlled by the public sector, because the private-sector model isn’t working.
There is nothing fair about wildfires. They are capricious and generally go wherever they please.
Still, it is just too grim that folks who lost their homes in the 2017 conflagration near Santa Rosa — some having just moved into homes built on burned lots — were under severe fire risk, again.
Wildfires also don’t play favorites. Some of the best-known names in show business and sports had to run for their lives as wildfires raged into ritzy neighborhoods in and around West Los Angeles.
The famed Getty Museum was in the cross-hairs for a while. Most of us have driven the 405 on the way to LAX, and last week the nation’s busiest freeway was shut down because flames were licking at the edge of the road, smoke making the route impassable.
Those L.A. Basin fires sent some smoke up our way, although the Central Coast has been relatively fire-free recently.
But we can’t reasonably expect that to last. During our years living in this area we’ve seen some monsters. The Painted Cave fire in the early 1990s. More recently, the Thomas fire burned its way into South County near the end of 2017, then January downpours sent a mountainside of mud and debris crashing through Montecito, killing more than 20 people.
Most of our worst fires can be traced back to human and/or mechanical error. Lately, it’s all about the power lines being compromised by limbs blown off trees by 70-mph winds.
But a graphic example of human error occurred near Buellton when workmen using a grinding tool allowed sparks to fly off into dry grass on July 4, 2007, igniting the Zaca fire. That one burned for months, destroying more than 240,000 mostly back-country acres.
There is a political component to almost everything, and California’s wildfires are no exception. Fox News commentators blamed the fires on liberals and worker diversity. That’s all that needs to be said about that.
And finally, a happy thought — Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Fire Department has been named the best in the Air Force by the Defense Department.
No surprise there. They get a lot of practice.