I’ve Seen Fire & I’ve Seen Rain

I’ve been digging through the memory hole lately and was reminded of Focus On The Family’s Stuart Shepard, who in 2008 asked the faithful to pray for rain of Biblical proportions — torrential, “umbrella-ain’t-gonna-help-you” rain — to drown out Barack Obama’s DNC nomination speech. He literally was asking for a deluge of rain. “Urban and small stream flood advisory rain!” — those were his words.

What an ass. So, fast forward four years and Colorado Springs, home of Focus on the Family, is engulfed in flames. Tens of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate, homes have been burned to the ground, etc. etc.

Meanwhile Tampa, FL, where the Republican National Convention will meet later this summer, is flooding. Yes, Tropical Storm Debby has spawned those torrential, “urban and small stream flood advisory rains” Shepard prayed for. Woopsies.

One might say God has a sense of humor. A sick one, at that.

I’ve wondered how the Christian, libertarian paradise of Colorado Springs is handling this disaster. Remember, this is the town that voted against a property tax increase, instead opting to severely cut city services. Trash pick-up, police protection and bus service was slashed; even streetlights were deactivated.

Anti-government zealots hailed it as a model for the future; Michelle Malkin, who lives in Colorado Springs, gushed:

“Self-reliance. Privatization. Thrift. Fiscal accountability. The liberals in Denver and Washington could learn something from our Mountain West spirit if they could just get over their Colorado Springs Derangement Syndrome.”

So now that the place is on fire, how are they doing? As with any disaster, there have been remarkable stories of neighbors helping neighbors, people pitching in to lend a hand and pooling emergency donations in the face of disaster. This is as it should be: crisis brings out the best in humanity. We saw it here in Nashville during our floods. So, yay people.

And then we have finger-pointing from the usual quarters. Michelle Malkin, no longer cheering “our Mountain West spirit,” is blaming President Obama for the firefighting fleet’s declining numbers — from 44 a decade ago to just nine today. She carps:

The Obama administration’s neglect of the federal government’s aerial tanker fleet raises acrid questions about its core public safety priorities.

But she conveniently ignores the “free hand of the market” reasons for the fleet’s decline, as explained in the New York Times last week:

The contractor-owned planes, refurbished from military use and leased by the United States Forest Service, have been hobbled by accidents and mechanical problems, leading to growing safety concerns and calls for a major overhaul. A decade ago, the government had 44 large tanker planes at its command. Now, with fires raging from California to Colorado to Wyoming, the regular fleet is down to nine.


Modern airplanes are available, some able to skim up a bellyful of water from a lake without even stopping to land and thus to conduct dozens of drops a day, but these are too expensive for the private contractors who fly the forest missions. Even the supply of younger military hand-me-downs has dried up. “There are no lightweight bombers being surplused anymore,” said Vincent Ambrosia, a forest fire expert at NASA.

Wait, what? The fleet is operated by private contractors, not Uncle Sam? But conservatives are always telling us that privatization is the answer to all of our problems! So the Free Hand Of The Market has failed? Not possible!

Meanwhile, this guy blames Obama for shrinking the fleet (linking to Malkin) and blames environmentalists for fighting the use of slurry — which, despite his claims, they seem to be using, as Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn tried to take credit for the arrival of federal slurry bombers before Tuesday’s GOP primary. Of course he did.

As for the charge about environmentalists and slurry, here’s what the New York Times piece said:

But the best way to use firefighting planes is not even clear. Although firefighting planes have been used for about 50 years, experts question whether it is better to use fire retardant instead of plain old water. Should the drop be made on a fire, or in a spot in advance of where the fire has reached?

Next month, the Forest Service will begin a study to see what technique works best. A sensor-equipped aircraft will fly 10 to 15 minutes behind the water bomber, to perform the forest equivalent of a bombing damage assessment.

I have no doubt that environmentalists are worried about the use of slurry, but it doesn’t sound like such concerns have made their way into any actual policy yet. What the Times piece tells us is that firefighters are trying to determine the most effective means of fighting the super-hot, climate-change related fires we’re seeing now. These aren’t your grandpa’s forest fires.

This reminds me an awful lot of Louisiana’s argument over “berms” after the BP oil spill. Blaming environmentalists was easy and fun for the Republicans — hippie punching always is with this crowd — but the question wasn’t, are they more damaging than an oil spill? The question was always, does it work? The answer in the case of the sand berms was a definitive no. But Gov. Bobby Jindal got to look defiant and resolute and the Fox News crowd got to swoon, never mind the time and money wasted.

Same as it ever was.


Filed under Libertarians, politics

20 responses to “I’ve Seen Fire & I’ve Seen Rain

  1. Nailed it. I’d love to know how many homeowners in those subdivisions that have been decimated by the Waldo Canyon fire were enjoying the fruits of their lower property taxes. Enjoy the whirlwind.

    • Well you know people like Michelle Malkin and James Dobson pay for private fire protection services. All the rich assholes in Southern California do.

      • deep

        “Private fire protections services?” Are they capable of stopping a massive fire such as they’re seeing in Colorado today? Hm. Perhaps a more unified response is necessary. One organized by an entity that is responsible for the entire population’s welfare? What would this entity be called? Hm… I don’t know! But I’d imagine it’s something the world has never heard of before!

      • Are they capable of stopping a massive fire such as they’re seeing in Colorado today?

        Oh no of course not, they’ll just protect your home from being reduced to ashes. If your next-door neighbor isn’t a subscriber, of course, too bad. They’ll stand and watch everyone else’s homes burn.

        Harper’s did a really excellent piece on the private fire protection companies during the last round of Southern California wildfires. I think this is it here, Too Big To Burn: AIG Plays God In A Man-Made Firestorm. It’s a must-read and I think it’s one of their stories that’s accessible to non-subscribers (I can’t tell from the link as I’m a subscriber, but it shows me logged out, so …)

        Do yourself a favor and give it a read …

      • deep

        Thanks Beale!

      • ThresherK

        “Private fire protection services” indeed.

        Let a Yankee remind all of how NYC cheap-assed their way through the winter of ’10-’11 with an “efficient” cutting of workers and trucks. No wasteful “standing army”, don’tcha know!

        When the snow hit the fan, the privateers got quick, guaranteed, and sometimes better offers from property managers and parking lots everywhere. As it piled up and the City’s forces were simply not numerous enough to handle the load, there was nobody left for Mayor Bloomberg to call; even the plainest Jane already had a date for the prom. (And that’s not to blame the “Mr Plows” out there. That’s what they’re in business to do. All the blame for the CEOs of effishinsy who thought they could make this work, somehow, in the public sector.)

        So, arid Mountain West: Love the scenery. Love Nevada Barr’s novels about you. And good luck with that.

  2. themadkansan

    …the angry, spiteful bastard in me is saying “Good. Reap as ye shall sow, assholes.”

    At least, I think that’s what he’s saying – the box kinda muffles the words. (and no, he doesn’t get let out very often, either. waaaaay too much chance for collateral damage…)

    • deep

      Actually, I know a few of these people through family. They’re blindly blaming it on Democrats and conveniently forgetting that it was their policies that resulted in the reduced fleet. The tribalism just leaves them totally blind to rational thought.

  3. democommie

    Commenting is fucked up, it keeps losing my comments and telling me that I have to jump through new hoops.

    • Sorry, I don’t know why it has problems with you. No one else has indicated they’re having any problems today and I haven’t changed anything. If it makes you feel any better, I always have trouble commenting over at Blogger sites.


  4. Sigh. I am sure the proud independent conserva-yahoos and glibertarians of Colorado Springs will not learn a thing about the concepts of the commons, fire fighting and protection. It is a world view remarkably impervious to things like reality and logic. That goes double for Malkin.

  5. Southern Beale:

    Yeah, I know, it’s weird. I wrote two or three comments and the only one that got through was the complaint–go figure;>)

  6. The fires in San Diego County have been unprecedented over the last nine years. The Cedar Fire of 2003 which destroyed almost the entire forest on the Cuyamaca Mountain actually uncovered an ancient Indian campground never before seen. Sections of the forest are never expected to recover. I don’t think that this has ever happened before. The standard complaint was that the biggest problem was too much fire suppression leading to overgrowth. If that was true, it makes for a deadly conflagration when mixed with record high temperatures and high winds fueled by the inferno. Fire was once a healthy component of the ecosystem. Charred oaks, manzanitas and pine trees woujld survive a blaze and live on surrounded by young seedlings nourished by the ash. Not so anymore. These fires combined with the devastating effects of bark beetle infestation spell death for entire swaths of forested land.

    The Witch Fire of 2007 denuded five entire miles of highway 78 between Ramona and Santa Ysabel. Old pickup trucks, refrigerators and tractors that had been junked in the gulleys were laid bare to public view. Entire homes burned away leaving nothing more than a concrete foundation and a chimney. Never seen anything like it. The historic city of Julian was only saved by a superhuman effort of hundreds of firefighters from all across the west working day after day and through the night. They slept in tent camps. Volunteers staffed the camps providing cots, blankets, clean socks and underwear, food and massages. Homeowners that waited too long to try to escape were engulfed by gargantuan twenty-foot tall walls of 1,000 degree flames. Animals were saved and sheltered across the entire southern portion of the state. Thousands of people lent vehicles, cages, horse trailers, feed, etc. to the effort.

    • The standard complaint was that the biggest problem was too much fire suppression leading to overgrowth.

      That sounds like old science to me. Controlled burns are pretty standard in most places, aren’t they? And In Los Angeles County homeowners clear brush away to get rid of the extra fuel.

  7. Well, as we all know, the concerns of proper habitat maintenance in municipal, state and national parks are dwarfed by the need to ensure that people can haz teh gunz at Yellowstone, etc.

    It’s not about a lack of resources, it’s about a lack of concern.

    I noticed that the USAF lent 4 (at least) air tankers to the totally self-reliant community of Colorado Springs. Anybody want to take bets on how long it is before the citizens of the area and their almost certainly teabaggist legislators DEMAND federal disaster aid?

    • Funny that the totally self-reliant community of Colorado Springs is totally dependent on Defense contractors like Northrop Grumman and things like the Air Force Academy there. Of course, it’s not government spending when it’s the military! That’s different! And anyway, there’s always money for war!

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