California wildfires strike Jacob

November 20, 2018

The face of Jacob Saylors is an eye opener, a teary eye opener for the devastation that fires can cause.

Jacob lost his home in a huge blaze that happened a decade ago when it swept through Paradise, California. His family lost their home that year, 2008.

Then, like a cruel, cruel joke in a place called Paradise, Jacob lost his home again this month, when wildfires swept through Paradise.

A photo of him, posted on NPR, shows him walking amid the rubble, hands pocketed and eyes downward, looking for salvage but expected none.

Jacob is only 11 years old. It’s the second time he’s lost his home and the blaze this month was on the same site as the 2008 fire.

His image should be what politicians and elected officials envision before they begin discoursing about what can we do, what must we do, to ensure this does not happen again.

Situated in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Paradise lies in rubble. Sure, not all homes and structures were destroyed. Yet there are a dozen fires ablaze in California and the number of dead, which rises daily, and the number of missing are all heart-string tuggers.

President Trump visited two California wildfire sites on Saturday, one in Malibu and the other in “Pleasure,” er, uh, Paradise.

(See, Mr. Trump might have thought Paradise earned its name from miners and other gold diggers, who had sought the pleasures, excitement and hard work of the California gold rush.)

Meanwhile, the senior and junior U.S. senators from California both made their initial cases last week to their Senate counterparts regarding their expectations for federal spending i.e., public money.

“Unfortunately, California’s wildfires continue to burn, preventing the immediate completion of specific and reliable damage assessments,” Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris said in a written statement. “We understand, however, that significant balances remain in federal disaster accounts, which are expected to be sufficient for immediate recovery needs. Therefore, we urge you to simply make sure that any additional disaster funding or tax relief made available for those recovering from hurricanes also be extended to wildfire victims.”

They wanted to be on the record, of course, lest anyone dare level the question, “Hey, who’s side are you on?”

Indeed, they need to ask their governor, Jerry Brown, who in 2016 vetoed a measure that would have required the state’s public utility commission to work with municipalities to ensure that energy companies do all they can to prevent fires in high-risk areas.

Mr. Brown, a Democrat, is being duly criticized for his political move, but has said he thought the additional oversight would have been redundant.

Wrong move, as a power line is suspected to have caused the Camp fire, which has wiped out the small town of Paradise and Jacob’s home again.

Praise to the firefighters, many of them working 24- to 48-hour shifts to save not only strangers’ lives but those of their families and fellow firefighters.

California prisoners are even engaged in battling the state’s blazes as part of the Conservation Camp Program, which began working in firefighting programs in the 1940s.

The inmates are volunteers who participate in the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, and are given entry-level training. Arsonists and sex offenders not allowed, and for obvious reasons.

The Red Cross and Salvation Army and other Samaritans deserve a big shout out, too, as Americans have begun to depend on them as first responders whenever and wherever disaster strikes and they do.

More than anything, the politicians should remember to think of Jacob on whose behalf I put forth this question: How long will it take the elected people of California to make sure Jacob doesn’t become a fire victim again?

The only answer not allowed is the federal government’s fiscal 2020 budget, ya dig?

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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