A wall of smoke. When I opened the window on Saturday afternoon, the horizon was completely obscured by a thick, black, ominous tidal wave of smoke and ash. The air was heavy with the pungent odor of burning trees in the distance. Ash fell lightly on the street. At that point, I was a full 15 miles from the fires raging through Simi Valley in California.
For one of my friends, the situation posed a far greater threat. She lives in Simi Valley, and her home was threatened by the flames. Out of her window, she could actually see the raging fires. On Sunday and Monday, she packed her pictures, her books and any other items of value into her car, waiting to see whether her house would be burned. Thanks to the skill of firefighters and a bit of good luck with the weather, her house escaped damage.
Others were not so lucky. As of Tuesday morning, over 1,100 homes had been burned, 500,000 acres had gone up in smoke, thousands of buildings were without power, and 15 people had been killed, several of them residents who refused to leave their homes until it was too late.
The California wildfires are a tragedy of monumental proportions. As with most other tragedies, however, the situation is not without its share of blame. A large portion of the blame must be laid at the feet of the radical environmental movement.
Environmental lobbyists wield tremendous power in the state of California. Environmental restrictions are stricter here than virtually anywhere else the world. As William Clay Ford Jr., chairman and chief executive of the Ford Motor Co., explained: "In California, people used to write songs about T-Birds and Corvettes. Today, they write regulations."
In the great state of California, environmentalists oppose national legislation designed to save forests: clear-cutting. Clear-cutting is a practice of thinning forests and other wooded areas. Clear-cutting prevents small forest fires from turning into massive ones; wildfires must have a constant source of fuel, and discarding dry tinder diminishes that supply.
Even Sen. Dianne Feinstein, hardly a right-wing anti-environmentalist, supports clear-cutting. On Oct. 2, Feinstein proposed a compromise in the Senate that would allow a national clear-cutting program, HR 1904 Healthy Forests Restoration Act, to be implemented. "With 57 million acres of federal land at the highest risk of catastrophic fire, including 8.5 million acres in California, it is critical that we protect our forests and nearby communities," Feinstein stated.