Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Response to Wildfires by Military not Hampered by Deployments

It did not take long for people to blame George Bush for the wildfires in California because of his [past] opposition to global warming and because of a general hatred of the man. People compare the response to the wildfires with the response to Katrina and there are those who believe that the wealthier Californians made out better than the poor folk in New Orleans. The fact is, all response starts at the local level and then rapidly involves state resources. The local responders put their plans into effect quickly in California and the state rapidly became involved. The National Guard responded proactively by moving planes equipped to fight fires closer to the action by placing them on training missions until they were requested and the official request could be initiated.

The state asked for help early and it got that help. Unlike the leaders of New Orleans and Louisiana, the leaders of California acted responsibly and did not wait for the federal government to swoop in to help. Had Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco acted as quickly and decisively there might have been a better outcome in New Orleans. I heard someone state, on one of the news shows, that the response of the military (especially the National Guard) was hampered because of the deployments of our reserves to the war on terror. The truth is, a very small portion of California's National Guard members are actually deployed and those deployments did not hamper the efforts in fighting the wildfires. In fact, the military was in place and had to wait to assist because the system had to play catch up with other entities necessary for the military to assist.

In fact, the Defense Department was so aggressive in responding to the dozens of wildfires that scorched nearly 500,000 acres this week that military pilots and crews were in place and set to fly a full day before they were finally allowed to do so, McHale explained.


Some 2,500 National Guard soldiers were deployed to help fight the fires, McHale said, as were 350 active duty and civilian Defense Department employees. An additional 17,000 National Guard troops were on standby for activation to the fire lines should they be needed, he said.

“The military response to the wildfires in California was not inhibited in any way, to any degree, by deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan,” McHale said. “The capabilities that we needed in Southern California were fully available from our domestic inventory of resources, and those capabilities were made available as fast as was humanly possible.” [DOD News]

Proper leadership is necessary in response to any disaster and the leaders in California demonstrated how it should be done. While I certainly realize that the disasters in New Orleans and California were two completely different entities, I also have heard and read the complaints by people who compared the two events. There is this feeling that California fared better because of its demographics and that is simply not true. There are many ILLEGAL immigrants in the Southern part of California (who hope to find jobs rebuilding the place) so the poverty vs well off does not completely wash, though there were many more rich people affected in California than New Orleans. Additionally, wildfires progress differently than floods and are a different beast to tame all together but since people brought it up...

The overarching theme is that proper leadership in the time of disaster is key to providing the best possible outcome and California outclassed Louisiana in that arena. California leaders gave firm evacuation orders and people obeyed. New Orleans gave half hearted orders and did not enforce them and certain parts of the population did not take them seriously. People died because the leadership of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana failed the people who they were elected to protect.

Let us hope that Bobby Jindal can change the culture of corruption and welfare entitlement that is pervasive in Louisiana, particularly in New Orleans, and get that once great state back on its feet.

BTW, contrary to what people think, arsonists and not global warming, were to blame for the wildfires.

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