Friday, August 23, 2013

I Forecasted Calif. Wildfires for the Summer

I Can Feel the Earth Move
By Cal Orey

Lake Tahoe, August 23--two miles from my home.

 Western Wildfires… On the Rise?
Perhaps, there is something to global warming and we will see more effects including more wildfires during the summer into the fall. – 2013 Forecasts, Cal Orey January Oracle 20-20

The news is, Western wildfires are becoming “more immense” than ever before.  This summer, science gurus claim the Arizona wildfire and other fires burning in the West are not an earthshaking surprise as the planet gets hotter.  And, of course, warmer temperatures and drought are not to be ignored during a longer fire season.
In July, more than 24 wildfires are burning in the West (including Colorado, Southern California, and Nevada), many triggered by the heat wave, lack of humidity, and winds.  One unforgettable wildfire in Arizona, took the lives of 19 firefighters in the mountain town of Yarnell.
Worse, the U.S. Forest Service notes wildfires in the West are more commonplace than a half a century ago. So, are Western wildfires really raging out of control?  Read on—find out the lowdown on terrifying and destructive summer/fall wildfires and Mother Nature.

Like many of the effects attributed to global warming, fires have been occurring for many years—with and without man’s help. Yes, surprisingly, the world as had its share of fires before you were born and before industrialization of the 20th century.
In nature, lightning causes a number of fires every year. Whether we like it or not, fires actually serve a purpose in the environment. A forest not gardened out or not subject to brush clearing fire on a regular basis will develop a ground cover which can cause an extremely hot, low fire that sterilizes the soil when a fire eventually does occur.
The main complaint in the thinly stretched global-warming-leads-to-more-fires chain is that fires created by global warming will have a negative effect on the total count up of species, ecosystems, and peoples’ habitat in a given location. And that’s not all…

Some researchers believe that some areas of the world, including the western United States should prepare themselves for more wildfires.  It doesn’t take a savvy scientist to tell you that wacky weather and rising temperatures thanks to the below average snowfall in the Western states is partially to blame for wildfires in the past and future. While weather is a key factor, the jury is still out whether Western states are victims of climate change.
Whether you live in the Western states or East Coast, Deep South, or Midwest, wildfires may affect you one day.  Take a look at these factoids, straight from the website—and find out what you can do to stay aware of a problem on our planet that appears to be on the rise.
Facts on Fires:
  • In 2011, there were 10,249 wildfires caused by lightning, but 63,877 wildfires caused by human error (as reported to the National Interagency Fire Center).
  • In 2011, more than 8.7 million acres burned due to wildfires in the U.S. More than 5.4 million acres burned due to human-caused wildfires.
 Common ways YOU could unintentionally start a wildfire
  • unattended debris burning
  • equipment fires such as from lawnmowers, ATVs, power equipment
  • smoking
  • unattended campfires
  • fireworks
  • carelessly discarding fireplace or BBQ ashes

As a native Californian, I know the danger of wildfires. More than 30 years ago, I lived in Santa Cruz Mountains, Calif.  In the summertime, the High Fire Danger signs were a constant reminder that our community was a victim of wildfires. In 1991, I was on the beat as a journalist for the deadly Oakland Firestorm—an unforgettable event that affected homes, people and their pets. And in 2007, I ended up evacuating South Lake Tahoe, to avoid the drama of the Angora Fire.
While fire season is not over, and the wildfires continue to spread, this year may or may not be one that goes down in history.  As wildfires break out in the states West of me, I cannot help but wonder, “Are we next?” The sound of sirens and plumes of smoke have me and my pets on guard. I know living in the forest I am too close for comfort and a wildfire during the summer and fall can become a harsh reality of living in paradise.
(August issue Oracle 20-20 Magazine, by Cal Orey)

Charmain, a gold-eyed 10-year-old part Abyssinian who often brought lizard and bird gifts to her devoted owner may be the Joan of Arc of the cat world.
            Norma Armon, who lost and found her brave cat in the Oakland Hills firestorm, cannot forget Charmain’s  tragic story.
            This is how it happened.
            Norma, a six year San Francisco Bay Area resident, is concerned—but, looking at the people milling on her street in Montclair, no one seems to be panicking yet. The Oakland blaze is still burning in the distance but John Itzkowich, Norma’s son-in-law, hurriedly climbs on their roof and waters it down.
            Then Norma looks for Charmain. She goes through every cupboard and every closet. By now, she is worried that she is going to be forced to leave—and leave her big cat, a spunky yet oftentimes skittish squirrel-colored animal.
            Soon, police officers cruising on motorcycles quickly put out the word: It is time to move out!
            Despite the fact Charmain had access to a cat door, Norma takes one more round around the house to make certain every one of the cupboards is open.
            “She’s long gone!” John again yells. “She is not stupid. That’s why you can’t find her.” So without Charmain anywhere in sight, John and Norma’s daughter, Carla, convinced the upset cat owner to evacuate the two-story home, and flee for their own safety.
            “Maybe she did leave before we did,” agonized Norma. And that’s what frightened the devoted cat owner. She had the notion that Charmain escaped when she witnessed the heavy duty flames. Yet, Norma sensed her cat would return in search of her owner.
            On Monday, after several futile attempts to return to the blazing fire, Norma hit all of the emergency animal shelters in hope of reuniting with Charmain. No luck.
            It wasn’t hard to focus on her missing cat—despite that on Tuesday morning it was confirmed. Norma’s house on Swainland Road was destroyed. Nothing but hot ashes and rubble remained. “Material possessions are replaceable,” says Norma, “but the cat was something different. Charmain is part of the family. She is one of my people.”
            On Tuesday, after searching shelter after shelter, once again, Norma reunited with her cat at the Oakland SPCA. It was Charmain’s distinct meows in a hospital room that grabbed Norma’s attention.
            She was told Charmain was rescued by a heroic man who stayed behind to save other homes burning in the fire. Late Sunday night her cat was spotted. Charmain was severely burned and in sad condition, meowing in front of Norma’s lot; and soon after was brought to the SPCA for burn treatment.
            Says Norma, “The only reason she was there was because she was looking for me. Because she had plenty of time to get out. She wasn’t trapped. There was no reason for Charmain to be up there. She went back to get me!”
            One week later, on Tuesday, after fighting to live—Charmain died. Soon after, Norma paid tribute to Charmain. She had planted a small pine tree out on Charmain’s burial spot in the Oakland Hills as a memorial to her cat that fought the flames.

(Reprinted with permission from Cats Magazine, January 1992 issue.)

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