Tag Archives: disaster preparedness

Remember Those SoCal Fires? The Aircraft Could Have Flown After All

The AP has the goods, it seems:

Ca. Fire Documents Conflict With Reports
By AARON C. DAVIS – 1 day ago

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Several aircraft were able to fly in strong winds on the first full day of last month’s Southern California firestorms, contradicting officials’ earlier claims that the weather had grounded virtually all aircraft, according to documents released Saturday.

Twenty-eight of 52 aircraft the state was tracking for firefighting efforts remained grounded that day, and high winds were not listed in the documents as the reason.

The documents obtained by the AP and other news providers under the California Public Records Act answer some questions while raising others. They also reveal a more detailed and at times different version of events than previously provided by the state’s top fire and emergency officials.

For example, state fire officials last month said high winds had grounded virtually all aircraft in the first two days after the flames broke out. Therefore, they reasoned, it would not have mattered whether additional state fire spotters had been available to ride in the military choppers.

The documents show that although pilots were hampered by strong winds, a dozen air tankers and five helicopters flew more than 70 hours Oct. 21, the first full day of the firestorm. Those aircraft would have been flown by pilots who – unlike military pilots – are trained specifically for fighting wildland blazes and would not necessarily have required state fire spotters.

The papers also reveal that the number involved in the aerial attack was a fraction of the tankers and helicopters available in the state during the fires’ opening days.

Twenty-eight of 52 aircraft the state tracked for firefighting efforts remained grounded. The total would include a combination of aircraft operated by the state, U.S. Forest Service, the military and private contractors.

They remained on the runway not because of high winds, but because state officials had not requested them or they were being kept in other parts of the state in case fires broke out there, according to the documents.

Again and again and again, we’re reassured after a given disaster that the government “did all it could,” that while “mistakes were made,” this disaster “could not have been forseen,” and that they will start thinking about how to prepare for “next time.” And yet when the news trickles out, long after the spin cycle has passed, it reveals that for all the subcontracting and bloviating and excuses, the government simply is not taking its job seriously.

So let me ask this now, to the ether:

What are the capital region’s local governments and the California state government planning to do if the Sacramento or San Joaquin river levees bust out this winter?

What are the Bay Area governments and the California state government planning to do if the Hayward fault slips and wrecks the Bay Area?

What are the SoCal local governments and the California state government planning to do if this year’s fire season stretches into yet another year of tinder-dry drought?

Because if they aren’t thinking about it now, and actually plannning out how to respond in real time to a bad situation instead of just issuing a report and calling it a day, we’re all going to take it on the chin collectively when they look into the cameras like deer in headlights when things go wrong.

It is only a matter of time with these sorts of things. We cannot prevent disasters from happening, but we do have some say about our response to them.

And if you botch something as simple as not allowing fire fighting planes to fly when SoCal burns, or you sit on your hands for hours while tens of thousands of gallons of carcinogenic bunker fuel glugs into a delicate coastal environment, at least have the decency to break out your wakizashi and announce your resignation on camera, instead of offering up lame excuses in hopes that noone will find out what you botched.

originally at surf putah

5.6 Earthquake Near San Jose

There was a mid-sized quake in the Bay Area just a couple of hours ago, measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale, on the Calaveras fault just east of San Jose. Apparently some people felt it as far as Marin County and Stockton, but I felt nothing out here in Davis. Here’s the USGS’s report:

Additionally, here’s a cool map, also from the USGS, that shows the likelihood of aftershocks in California (with any luck this will update automatically, but we’ll see):

And for those of you in earthquake country (or anywhere prone to natural disasters), this series of diaries on disaster preparedness by AlphaGeek at daily kos is a must-read, and covers all the bases.

Be safe, people.