Personal About Politics: Fire in the Hills of L.A. – Lives & Homes Saved by Not-For-Profit Government Services. Think About It.
Fire is rampant in the Angeles National Forest at the Station Fire northeast of Los Angeles, specifically in the LaCanada-Flintridge, LaCresenta, Altadena and Pasadena areas. This is just one of eight fires now burning in Southern California, with the Station Fire being the largest.
Starting last Wednesday, the Station Fire has continued to spread quickly fed by extremely dry conditions, due to five years of drought, underbrush that has not been burned or cleared for over 40 years, steep terrain, 105-degree temperatures and almost zero humidity. As of late this afternoon (Monday) more than 12,000 homes have been threatened.
The following letter was written by Richard, a resident of LaCanada-Flintridge, and has been reprinted with his permission.
“I am one of the unfortunate residents who was evacuated from my home last night due to the La Canada fires. Our neighborhood, Briggs Terrace, was one of the prime focal points of the news Saturday night because of the unfavorable topography. A small canyon, Pickens Canyon (misidentified on the news as “Briggs Canyon”), stood between us and the advancing fire line. For those who don’t know, that’s not good.
“Canyons are like three-sided boxes — they frequently burn in one great consumptive tempest as the fire rushes up all sides simultaneously. The fear, of course, was whether firefighters would be able to stop a firestorm in Pickens before it breached its Western perimeter and invaded our homes.
“Without nighttime air support, the fire line (25+ miles in all) was defended by Hot Shot crews — four man teams each with a water truck and hoses — spread painfully thin to defend such a massive front. Through the long hot night, they defended our homes.
“What struck me this morning as I was allowed to walk back to my house (cars not allowed yet, but thankfully all our homes safe and intact),was the magnificent heroism, selflessness and professionalism of the many public services that have been fighting these fires and protecting our homes, lives and families. This is our government. These are not-for-profit services provided by our government. They work. They work magnificently.
“Where were the right wing town hall picketers declaiming these “socialist” services? Where were the cries for privatization and appeals to free-enterprise? Where were the accusations of incompetence by anything the government endeavors?
“Right wingers, of course, love firemen and law enforcement. Don’t ask me why. I am utterly perplexed how they can embrace these public services so wholly and unconditionally yet turn rabid at the prospect of public healthcare? What is the line in their minds that divide these two? Have they been convinced that healthcare is a privilege and not a fundamental right, like fire protection or law enforcement?
“Nevertheless, I feel like there is a potential gold mine of persuasion here by making this connection between healthcare and other public services while the fires are still in the forefront of our public consciousness. Shame the right wingers by turning their arguments against government healthcare as a de facto slam against their beloved government firefighters and government law enforcement officers. I would hope our Democratic leaders would make this connection loud and clear, far and wide.”
Can you imagine how this situation might be handled if our fire stations were run by for-profit, private companies just like health insurance companies?
“Good afternoon, Fire Station # 34. How can I help you?”
“I need a fire truck out here right away, there is a huge brush fire behind my house!”
“What is your name, Ma’am?
“And your address Ms. Cabot?
“465 Winding Road Lane”
“What is your account number?”
“HNQ79842344 KL 93”
“Thank you. I’ll just look that up.”
“Could you please hurry, the fire is getting closer!”
“Ms. Cabot, I’m sorry but we no longer carry your account at our fire station.”
“What do you mean, I have paid my premiums to your station for the last three years.”
“Well, that is certainly true, Ms. Cabot, but since you had previous fires in your area, we could no longer carry your policy, so we sold it to a larger fire station that has pre-existing fire coverage.”
“But I was never told my policy was dropped by you!”
“Oh, I’m so sorry about that Ms Cabot. However, I’m sure you will be very happy with Fire Station # 46. They are a much larger station than we are and will give you comprehensive coverage.”
“O.K., O.K. Just connect me with that station please, there are fire embers on the roof of my garage!”
“My pleasure, Ms. Cabot. Oh, I should tell you, this new coverage has a much higher deductible, payable upon the arrival of the firefighters. No cash or checks, credit card only. Please hold while I connect you. Have a nice day.”
“You have reached Fire Station #46. All our agents are currently busy. Your call is very important to us. Please hold and your call will be taken in the order it is received.”
(cheesy music playing)
“Good afternoon, this is Fire Station #46, thank you for holding, how may I help you?”
“My garage is on fire and will soon spread to my house! Please send a fire truck immediately!”
“May I have your name, address and account number please?”
“Cheri Cabot, 465 Winding Road Lane, HNQ79842344 KL 93. Please hurry!”
“Thank you Ms. Cabot. Oh, my, you are in a hot spot aren’t you? Unfortunately, all our trucks are out on calls right now.”
“What can I do? The fire has spread to the roof of my house!”
“Well, I can see if another station, an out-of-network provider has any trucks available, but you will have to pay full price.”
“Fine, just get someone here quickly! My house is on fire!”
“There is no need to yell, Ma’am, I’m trying to help. It looks like sub-station #23 has a pickup truck with a fire hose and two firemen available. We will give them authorization to use our fire hydrant on your street. Be sure to have your credit card ready. There may be additional charges depending on amount of water used and length of time the firemen are there.”
“There is no longer any need for them to come, my house is burned to the ground.”
“I’m sorry Ms Cabot. I’ll send an agent right away to write up a new policy. You are aware, of course, with another fire on your history, your premiums will be higher.”
THINK ABOUT IT!
Cheri Cabot, Politics Correspondent
Cheri’s column, “Personal About Politics,” published every week, will reflect on how the life of a 60 year-old, middle class woman is affected by politics, policy and the current state of the nation – a look at the personal aspects of politics. Her column is part of Gather Essentials.
Cheri is a freelance writer, living in Southern California. She has two grown children and is the proud grandmother of three. Cheri is also a purveyor of fine coffee, warm chatter and dry wit.
You can find all of Cheri’s columns on Personal About Politics at www.personalpolitcs.gather.com, The Obama Watch at theobamawatch.gather.com or her home page here, www.ccabot.gather.com.