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Print 15 comment(s) - last by feraltoad.. on Oct 29 at 1:32 AM

Finding out that your home is still standing means the world when you're an evacuee.

The phone rang and we heard a recorded voice telling us to leave home immediately, and bring only what we could carry. It was the dreaded call that hundreds of thousands of families like ours have gotten since the mass evacuations of San Diego County began on Sunday.

So we loaded up our “family”  – a combination of children, dogs, cats, horses, and a lone rabbit -- and made our way to a nearby horse ranch that lies just outside the immediate evacuation area. Here we sit, breathing the fumes of the fires and the stables, wondering about everything we left behind.

That wondering, as it turns out, is worst thing about being an evacuee. Ironically, the one item that has brought the most solace to the families gathered here has turned out to be a little gadget about the size of a pack of gum: Novatel's cellular USB data modem, sold by Verizon Wireless as the USB720 NationalAccess Broadband device.

Even with the radio and TV broadcasts we can receive, we were soon frustrated by the lack of specific information on our plight. Local stations focus only on the biggest fires ravaging our area, and have no time or personnel to report on our tiny blaze, which has consumed only 7,500 acres, 200 homes, and evacuated a mere city of 40,000. Public agencies are too busy fighting fires and saving lives to update their telephone information lines. While our community newspaper publisher has valiantly updated her lead story every few hours, it hasn’t been enough to satisfy the refugees, each one hungry for details on whether their own homes and loved ones have survived the ordeal.

In the end, we have relied on three main sources of information: two are online, and one is decidedly low-tech:

1.    The California Highway Patrol’s real-time incident log (http://cad.chp.ca.gov).
The log is designed for CHP officers logging on from their cruisers, reporting their activities in the field. The information is full of police jargon and traffic-related minutiae, but occasionally it contains references to where the fire is erupting or being extinguished. Because the data is all recorded in real-time by first responders, it’s a godsend to information-starved evacuees.

2.    Impromptu user forums in the comments sections of articles published by our local “rag,” the North County Times (www.nctimes.com).
The articles themselves were nominally valuable, but readers interacting spontaneously in the comments sections were priceless. For example, I came across a post last night where a woman mentioned that her elderly mother had just broken the evacuation order and returned home. I recognized the lady in question as my next-door neighbor, and the post confirmed that my home was also still intact.

3.    A 10-year-old fax machine.
About as low-tech as you can get, the fax machine sits in my home office. Every so often I call it from my cell phone, just to reassure myself that the house is still there. As long as the machine picks up and screeches back at me, I know we still have a home to return to.


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RE: Fax machine...
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 10/26/2007 8:15:34 AM , Rating: 4
quote:
If, a hundred years ago, humans would not have extinguished every little fire that started by natural causes, we would not be in this situation to begin with - and we keep it up to this very day and the result is what we see now.

If we didn't put out all the fires we would end up with more big fires that torch several houndred thousand square miles of land, this is the natural cycle of things.

quote:
Blaming "treehuggers" now is of course the easy way and what people like you often do, but do you know for sure that it is not the forest service that blocks controlled burns because they cant guarantee to control them anymore?

I'm putting the blame where it belongs. We are developing these lands into communities. The brush needs to be burned off to prevent mother nature from doing this sort of thing naturally. We chose to build there, now we need to choose to control how and when these sorts of things happen to the best of our ability. Your also grasping at straws here. Nothing is 100% Controlled, no matter what your doing, but its within acceptable risk ranges. Controlled burns are a reality, many other countries do it (Australia for instance), but we heed too much environmental advice, more so than most other civilized countries.

quote:
Now, after these fires, we shall see how they proceed once vegetation is coming back. Will they do the right thing and not jump every little forest fire in the future or will they make the same mistakes as usual - so you can blame environmentalists?

When they don't jump on a little fire and it becomes a big fire and causes a swath of devastation I bet you will be right there screaming why the Fire Fighters didn't respond and put out the fire when it was small, that their negligence allowed it to grow and cause massive damage, then sue them for not doing their jobs. Yea I don't see them allowing these things to grow, it's too easy to make a case if one does get too big. Your argument might be valid if you can provide civil and criminal immunity for any decisions they make. Until you can, not going to happen.


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