Firefighters found six bodies in California on Thursday as they struggled to control wildfires that prompted a record evacutation. Two of the victims were found near their garage on a hillside dotted with avocado groves; the others were found in the charred ruins of a camp used by Mexican immigrants after crossing the border. President Bush visited devastated areas, promising aid.
What the commentators said
Californians will have to have “some blunt civic conversations,” said The Seattle Times in an editorial, “after the last brutal fire is extinguished and the ash settles.” Nobody can control the harsh Santa Ana winds that whip up wildfires every year, but the authorities can commit to “substantial investments in fire suppression” and tough water-conservation measures that will give potential victims a fighting chance.
“Finger-pointing” is not productive, said the San Diego Union-Tribune in an editorial, but there were plenty of lessons from this disaster. For example, U.S. planes and helicopters should have been on standby to help with the firefighting. Still, it’s a good thing that the federal government sent aid “without the torpor that characterized its reaction to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.”
“Hurricane Katrina and the California wildfires have little in common except gale-force winds and human misery,” said USA Today in an editorial. “But one thing that the wildfires share with Katrina is that both natural disasters were made worse by the propensity of people to build homes in high-risk areas.” Until developers and home-buyers start putting public safety before gorgeous views, the human suffering from natural disasters will only escalate.