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Quote of the Day - I'll be the judge. I'll be the jury, said cunning old Fury. I'll try the whole cause and condemn you to death. - Lewis Carroll
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How Not to Manage Fire Information

The raging fires are almost over, but hotspots still remain. Admittedly, I am very, very thankful to the firefighters who so bravely attacked this monster and worked to quell it. I am sorry that some were injured and that one died.

I am likewise saddened that so many others lost their lives. I am troubled that my friends and others have lost their homes and possessions, as well as the loss of the beautiful sylvan glens, wildlife and plants where we live. The loss and the devastation to entire mountain communities is staggering and mind-boggling. Especially when you think that more than 1000 square miles - more than an entire Eastern state - have burned.

In the case of the Old fire, all because of an arsonist.

So many people have evacuated their homes. Unfortunately, we have been largely in the dark information-wise. Sure, there's plenty of TV coverage, but it's very superficial for those of us who live where the firestorm is. Plus, the LA reporters can't tell the difference between Lake Arrowhead, Running Springs and Big Bear, even though the towns have different names and are miles apart.

Even the government map sites don't work, or are overwhelmed with hits. One Forest Service site provided this bit of helpful information: "Fire is a unified command between Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Forest Service Type I team assigned."

What? That helps me understand where the fire is.

There are notable exceptions, but in the true American spirit, it is an individual effort that shines through. One, fireupdate.com stands out. Run by Ranger Al (run from a mirror site today because of the volume of hits). He didn't evacuate.

Ranger Al is running his server and computers by a generator. At this point, he has only two days of gasoline left, and is looking for dontations from folks who also remained in the mountain.

Even Google can't keep up - or hasn't indexed sites yet, as this search for the Old Fire indicates. It's frustrating for those who are looking for specific information and can't find it.

Some volunteers have shut down in the face of lack of funding. This site was a referral from a US Forest Service site that wouldn't (or couldn't) provide the information itself - and what the government did provide was out of date.

Other, individual sites again shine through with personal observations and fire maps.

What a great idea. Information. Maps. Pictures. Street Addresses. Next time, how about this information from the federal, state or local government officials who dispatch the firefighters and get real-time reports back.

I'm not asking for the firefighters to do this work -their task is fighting fires. How about the person that stands there and answers media questions? Let's get the information out to the people who need it most - the evacuees and homeowners.

Not the news reporter who blocks fire trucks with his own van and then lost his van to the fire.

Brilliant.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, October 30, 2003 at 20:06 Comments Closed (0) |
 
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