Wednesday, October 24, 2007

California's worst series of fires ever

I'm sure I don't need to tell you that Southern California has been on fire now since Sunday. And I'm sure I'm not the only person who has family affected by this fire. I had my sister evacuated from Encinitas as well as my cousins in Santa Clarita, not to mention a dozen other friends in the San Diego area. And living in Riverside county, just north of the San Diego county line, I've been watching their fires very closely, but as of now, they haven't come within 10 miles of me.

Of course it would be nice if the television news casts actually relayed actual news. One problem we face here in south Riverside county is that we're lumped into what's generally considered part of the greater LA area, so we get LA news channels. The problem with that is the fires approaching our area are from San Diego county. So watching the LA news more useless than normal since they aren't covering the SD fires. And even if they were all we would get still follows the "if it bleeds, it leads" mentality. Just more proof that the MSM is totally useless.

Before going to bed last night I watched 90 minutes of news and got absolutely no useful information, and certainly nothing pertaining to the fires nearest to my area. You get the stories of the people in the evac centers, will this be better than Katrina type stories. Something tells me there will be plenty of time later to sort that kind of thing out. Let's stick to reporting the news for now. I think it was 20/20 last night that asked Michael Chertoff three questions all of which were about how the affects of Katrina are still being felt. You're interviewing the head of Homeland Security and all you can ask is about the effects of a hurricane 2 years ago? Please...

Then there are the clips that follow people back to their homes and watch them sift through the rubble and say this was the garage, this was the livingroom... I don't want to seem heartless, because their loss is staggering and tragic, but it does nothing to inform the population as to what the latest fire info is.

Then there are the secondary effects of fire type stories. If you watch you get to learn the breathing smoky air is probably bad for you. I needed you to interview a doctor to tell me that? And what about displaced animals? One report cut to a stable at the LA community college used to house horses from burn areas, and all the reporter there could say was that the stable was full. And the pet interviews were fun, but again, totally useless.

You also get the great helicopter shots of massive flames in some random canyon, with the pilot saying yeah Bob, I'm over Dumb River Canyon and wow it's going up in flames. Now, I've lived in SoCal my entire life in LA, San Diego, and now Riverside counties and I'd like to think I know SoCal pretty well. But I've got no idea where this random canyon is or that tiny creek is or what that hill over there is called. It could be 2 miles away and I wouldn't have a clue because most people don't refer to anything around here by topographic features. Try giving real world references like major streets, freeways, and landmarks. And when the reporters do start talking streets they find the smallest dead end street possible to reference. Start small and then give a larger picture of where that is please.

Then you have the anchors talking about total area burned, total number of houses destroyed, total number of people displaced simply to shock the audience. I like the statistics and hard data info, but knowing the total area burned by each fire, the number of homes destroyed by that fire, etc. doesn't help. Again maps of what the current burn area is would be nice. What area is the fire burning toward, what areas are threatened. And again show major streets and freeways please; I don't know where Rattlesnake creek is.

But my favorite story from yesterday's TV news was the reporter in the Lake Arrowhead area who had just finished filming a clip in front of a house that had a couple embers starting to burn in the backyard. He said this house is about to go up in flames and that fire units were nowhere to be found. Then 2 minutes later, two firemen show up but don't have a truck, hoses, or any water. So the reporter gets to be a "hero" when he goes to the house next door and grabs a garden hose so the firefighter can put out a two foot square patch of fire. I'm sure he'll get a Pulitzer or something for that stunning report.

So who's been the best source of info for me? Local city and county websites and all the phone numbers for fire agencies with the up to date info, and webcasts from the local access channels. Several of the San Diego newspapers have fire info blogs, bulletin boards, and chat rooms up where the public can get info from each other directly.

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