Posted on Freedom Advocates on September 10th, 2004
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — What you haven’t heard about the San Diego Wildfires and how changed policies have destroyed lives, property and nature.
Philosophy matters. Ideas have consequences. San Diego’s fire-ravaged neighborhoods exemplify a collectivist worldview, ethics, politics, and policy. Wildfires named Cedar, Paradise, and Otay ignited within 12 hours on October 25-26, 2003, incinerating 383,269 acres, destroying 2,453 homes, 22 commercial buildings, 763 outbuildings, and burning 17 people to death, including one firefighter. The Cedar fire started as a tiny 20-acre blaze and roared that night into an inferno fanned by ferocious Santa Ana winds gusting to 70 mph. Fires consumed 100,000 acres in 10 hours, 166 acres per minute, nearly 3 acres per second. Government responsible for protecting life and property surrendered to wildfire because of four irrational tyrannies:
- subversive environmentalism
- toxic regulation
- tolerance for arson
- sabotage of intelligent self-help.
Federal and state forests long have practiced “Let It Burn” natural fire management, especially popular during the Clinton administration. No fire road cutting, no clearing of diseased, dead trees, no disturbing natural habitat. In San Diego, no aerial drops of fire retardant are allowed on land or buildings within 300 feet of water. Why? Retardant might pollute the water that might poison fish and aquatic plants. A few days before San Diego erupted in fire, the United States Forestry Service’s Environmental Ethicists brought suit in Missoula, Montana, to prevent aerial firefighting drops of fire retardant chemicals and to prohibit bulldozing of fire-breaks near animals and plants protected under the Endangered Species Act. Firefighters would be obliged to get permits for spraying retardant from the Environmental Protection Agency and for bulldozing, from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Fire-fighters on the line work heroically, valiantly, and merit praise, honor, and gratitude. They and other citizens are exposed to extraordinary hazard because bizarre environmental restrictions subvert protections of land, property, and people. Subversion? The US Forestry Service has adopted practices called for in the United Nations “Agenda 21,” especially Chapter 13: Managing Fragile Ecosystems. United Nations’ Sustainable Development plans for global, national, and local economies, ecologies, and social equities imperil American private property, lives, and livelihoods. America also is one of twelve nations that signed the Montreal Protocols that represent control of 90% of the planet’s boreal and temperate forests. Australia’s Minister for the Environment ominously stated at the Montreal Protocol meeting in 1996: The “global forest estate…[is the] common legacy of all mankind.”
California forest firefighting is directly influenced by the United Nations-inspired international fire policy of the Urban Wildland Intermix Code (UWIC) that appears in San Diego as law of the Wildland Urban Interface. This local law copied almost verbatim from the International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), overpowers Congress and America’s national sovereignty and bypasses state legislatures. More than 450 cities worldwide, including Santa Monica, California, Muncie, Indiana, and Chicago, Illinois have signed these international local government sustainable development regulations. Interface private land is scheduled soon to evolve into nature preserves or conservation corridors that link nature sanctuaries. Wildland Urban Interface firefighters invite US Fish and Wildlife experts to map potentially endangered species, and then create Habitat Conservation Plans. If your land is in an HCP, it is yours in name only.
California Department of Forestry (CDF) has an aerial firefighting rule: no aircraft takes off or flies one half hour before sunset. The Precautionary Principle governs. If there is potentially risk of any possible harm, no action is permitted. The Cedar fire was reported 5 minutes after the no-fly cut-off. No one requested a waiver, no one asked permission to violate this absurd regulation.
This was the high fire season. Fires burned out of control just miles to the north. Local San Diego fire crews lent personnel and equipment to fight northern fires. Fierce Santa Ana winds were forecast. Yet the fire burned, unfought, throughout the night. Shari Lee, Administrator of Ramona Airport Air Attack, 10 miles from the Cedar Fire ignition site, said that if the fire had been reported five minutes earlier she would have dispatched two bombers with retardant and one helicopter with water. But it was not, so she did not. Rule, not reason, ruled.
Worse, CDF Director, Andrea Tuttle, appointed by then newly-recalled Governor Gray Davis, refused all outside firefighting assistance. Chief Tuttle, an environmentalist and marine ecologist, directs the largest fire-fighting force in the world: 4000 full-time employees, 1500 seasonal employees, 1000 engines, 23 air tankers, 13 helicopters, 15 air attack ships (OV-10 Bronco helicopters for command and control), and an annual budget of $500 million. Though fires raged out of control, CDF aero-chief Mike Padilla rejected help from US Navy Helicopter Squadron HC85, based at North Island in San Diego, with 240 active duty and Naval Reserve officers who exclusively fly firefighting helicopters. Volunteering by phone, by internet, by flying one helicopter to Ramona Airport to demonstrate they were ready, willing, and able, they were rebuffed. Commander Ellinger faxed 26 pages of his flyers’ training and personnel records to CDF.
CDF Chief Mike Padilla claimed to not know the Navy flyers existed. Furthermore, he would not allow them to fly in the same airspace as CDF men for Navy men were not CDF-tested or CDF-certified. Moreover, he was “overwhelmed.” Navy firefighters spent time in their Ready Room until on Day #6 the Navy Helicopter Squadron was permitted to make what CDF Chief Tuttle called “cosmetic waterdrops.”
CDF and Governor Gray Davis even refused help from Washington, D.C. On Day #1 of the fires, San Diego Congressman Duncan Hunter (Chairman, House Armed Services Committee) got a promise from General Richard Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff for America’s defense to send six C-130 Mobile Aerial Firefighter Units. He gave Congressman Hunter his home phone number. California had to officially request; he would provide. Governor-Reject Davis did not respond. CDF Tuttle and her subordinate Mr. Snodgrass took the offer to “committees.” Four critical days passed. Aircraft never came to San Diego. Duncan Hunter’s home was one of the thousands burned to the ground.
Tolerance for Arson
People intentionally set the Cedar, Paradise, and Otay fires. Whether the arson was malicious or negligent is irrelevant. Cedar was ignited by a “lost hunter” named Sergio Martinez, age 33. He lit a “signal” fire in 99 degree heat in the high fire season in a high fire area during daylight. Most specific information about him is suppressed. He has not been charged with a felony, not held in detention, but was cited for blameless “carelessness.”
The Paradise fire was set where “young people hang out,” suspects investigated, but no one as yet charged. “We haven’t decided yet whether it was just recklessness or malicious intent, but arson is arson,” said CDF Capt. Gary Eidsmoe. Sgt. Darrell Carr of the Sheriff’s Department said, “We do have witnessesÂ….”
A cooking fire, started by people who illegally crossed the border from Mexico, ignited Mine Canyon at Otay. 10,000 daily illegal crossings go uncaught.
There was little to no media condemnation of the October arson. Martinez’s name was media-suppressed. But there was media compassion for the fire-setters’ feelings. Some proposed protective custody for Martinez since people were angry with him. In our colossal politics of deviance, perpetrators were not prosecuted but venerated as victims.
Sabotage of Intelligent Self-Help
No evacuation plans exist for most San Diego communities. Even today my vulnerable community is classified for evacuation, not for “shelter in place.” We got tantalizing rudimentary information but no precise instructions for saving ourselves. Citizen self-defense is not taught, discouraged (“Call 911 for professional help”), and punished when caught. Cut a firebreak on your own land to protect your house? You risk fine and prison if you destroy environmentally protected shrubs.
Advice for disaster preparedness (and terrorism) is condescending, cosmetic, and aimed at 6th grade reading comprehension. During the October firestorm, San Diego’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) refused to sound the Emergency Alert System. Terrified San Diegans had no central source for information or advice. Davis-appointee, OES Chief Deborah Steffen refused to use the Emergency Alert System because it was “old,” the fire was “fast-moving,” it occurred at night-time, and we must avoid “panic.”
Saint Paul said it was better to marry than to burn (with passion). San Diego thinks it is better to burn than to panic.
Surrender to Wildfire is Assault on Excellence
Surrender to Wildfire assaults human excellence. Subversive environmentalists, toxic regulators, coddled arsonists, and contemptuous Office of Emergency Services grandmothers protecting citizens against panic do not love the environment. They hate success, achievement, competence, invention, wealth, productivity, and happiness. Dangerous nihilists intend death to civilization.
We must choose to surrender to wildfire or to fight wildfire. Surrender to wildfire is surrender to collectivist America: land of moral ambiguity and home of pacifist appeasement. Fighting against wildfire is fighting for individualistic America: land of moral strength, and home of responsible liberty. As we fight wildfire, so we defend our nation.