Worst Ever: An Eye on the Southern California Wildfires

I have been watching the Southern California fires on my television, live feed from an L.A. news station, for several days from the "safety" of my armchair at home in Prescott, Arizona. Smoke from these fires drifted 300 miles east to fill the air where I live.

In over 33 years in the fire service I have attended numerous large structure and wildland/urban interface fires in the New England area and various locations throughout the western United States.

By comparison, I must say that I have never seen the likes of these Southern California fires. They will be written into the books as "The Worst Fires" in this country's modern history. As I write this brief commentary, the Southern California fires have been burning unchecked for one week. The statistics are unprecedented.

The sights of these fires on television are unparalleled with other fires that I have witnessed. There is area ignition of large tracts of vegetation that consume all in a matter of seconds, with flame lengths of several hundred feet, and massive thermal columns that turn day into night. I watch as a 10,000 sq. ft. church camp building ignites and burns to the ground in under 10 minutes.

Weary firefighters make Herculean attempts to save homes, winning some and losing many. At the last moment, a firefighter rescues a TV reporter and his videographer from the flames.

As these fires burn on, it is obvious containment is some time away. I believe that the statistics on acres, homes, other structures and lives lost will surely increase in the coming days. The costs of firefighting and the loss of property will astound us all when tallied. There will also be intangible costs. These costs are much higher and can not be written onto a piece of paper or a government journal.

The unimaginable is that all of these fires were caused by humans. Some were caused by arsonists which is even more heinous. The "Worst Fires" continue on at this time. Where and when they will be stopped is not known at this moment.