As this is being written, the state of California is still facing what has been called the deadliest fire in history. Lives and property have been lost at an alarming rate, and there is no end in sight.
If ever there was a time for prayers, this is it.
The problem is that it is not just one, not just two, but three fires that are raging throughout the golden state, resulting in the mandatory evacuation of more than 300,000 residents and counting.
Like natural calamities such as storms and typhoons, the fires have been given names. They will certainly be remembered for many decades to come.
In Northern California, there is the Camp Fire which has burned down some 90,000 hectares and is still not fully contained. It is now officially the deadliest in the state’s history where the loss of life is concerned.
In Southern California, there are the Woolsey Fire and the Hill Fire. The latter has been contained for the most part, while the former continues to spread.
The entire city of Malibu – known for its natural beauty and a favored place for the rich and famous to build their luxury mansions — was evacuated. With so much of Malibu having burned to the ground, it will take a very long time before it returns to normal, if ever.
Meanwhile, the smaller mountain town of Paradise to the north has been almost totally obliterated with scant hope of ever being rebuilt.
Elsewhere, scores of communities have been reduced to rubble, embers and ash, looking for all intents like war zones.
Worst of all, the thousands of exhausted firefighters, already insufficient in number, have no choice but to continue battling the three blazes that have already resulted in more than 30 dead, and the death toll is likely to rise further.
Stretched to their breaking point, we shudder to think of what would happen when these heroes are no longer able to take action necessary to snuff out the fires.
It is sad to note that as the flames continued to spread, President Donald Trump unnecessarily cited poor forest management as the cause of the tragedy. Perhaps he didn’t know that it is the responsibility of the federal government and not the state government to manage the forests.
The California Professional Firefighters Association was right in replying that the president’s message was “ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning” to both the victims and the firefighters.
At least at the start of the week, President Trump approved a request to provide California with federal resources to combat the disaster. Every little bit helps.
The finger pointing can wait. When all three fires have been defeated, and when everything has been done to provide assistance to the tens of thousands of victims, then the experts can sit down and decide what needs to happen to make sure that future fires can be contained as quickly as possible, with a minimum of damage to life and property.
For now, California is under a state of emergency. The first priority is to stop the three fires immediately. This is easier said than done, we know. But there are no options. The California inferno of 2018 must be made history.