Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It's Too Damn Hot!

We're burning up here in Southern California and it's not just a belated Indian Summer or the infamous Santa Anas. The combination of extreme wind, warm weather and drought conditions have made this wildfire season one for the books. The numbers are staggering: 18 fires burning over 2,327 structures destroyed or damaged with 28,535 in harm's way, almost half a million acres burned, almost one million people evacuated, at least six deaths and at least one BILLION dollars worth of damage.

Let me make this perfectly clear--personally, I am in no danger. Surrounded by asphalt and concrete, nothing's gonna be burning out of control in West L.A. The closest fire to me is in Malibu--where my boss lives. Fortunately that fire is now 100% contained. The only way the wildfires affect me is in the unceasing local news coverage (I swear the anchorbots are loving this. Car chases, wildfires and mudslides--any reason to stay on air for hours on end...), the sooty haze in the air--which stings my eyes, aggravates my nasal passages and irritates my throat--and the heat. Yeah, the Santa Anas have given up way warmer than normal temps--but I swear the heat from Calfornia burning is upping the thermometer reading more than a couple of degrees. It feels like you're standing next to a bonfire when you walk outside. Thankfully it's supposed to cool off over the next couple of days.

There's a bit of deja vu with these fires. Four years ago we had some nasty wildfires that hung a haze in the air--like someone had adjusted the brightness on the TV and made it too dark. We also were suffering through an interminable grocery store strike--and today, an impending WGA strike looms on the horizon. Four years ago I was also dealing with rude, inconsiderate neighbors and wouldn't you know it, today I still am as well. I'm currently fantasizing about the painful death of the asshole who woke me up at 1 am when he/she slammed the laundry room door. But that's the extent of my misery. I haven't--like my friend Dave's parents in the San Diego area--been forced to leave my home.

Sadly, some of the fires appeared to have been set by arsonists. There's currently an FBI investigation of the Santiago fire and police are questioning a suspect in San Bernardino. It's sad to think that some scumbag would willfully and purposely cause such horror--but even the fires that are accidentally no doubt there was a careless human (probably a smoker) involved. And speaking of scum, when tragedy strikes the parasites crawl out of the woodwork. News agencies are warning of people scamming money by pretending to be firefighters to solicit donations. And those who have been evacuated not only have to worry about possibly losing their homes, but the threat of looters taking advantage of their absence.

If L.A. landlords aren't exploitative enough these days, now you see ads on Craigslist offering housing (for exorbitant rates) for displaced victims of the fire. I did see, however, several people posting offering free or low rental rates so there are some people out there not looking to make a profit from others tragedy. God bless them. And God bless the firefighters. And prayers to all those affected. Hopefully it will get back to normal soon...

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