Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Marines, mothers and a magician united by fires
I've covered every major firestorm in Southern California for the last 13 years, but these fires are unprecedented. What has impressed me the most is the upbeat spirit of the evacuees at Qualcomm Stadium.

Most had escaped the firestorm with just the clothes on their backs, but each person -- from Tammy McCall, a young mother with three small children, to the Stoddards who have been married for 62 years to the Villanuevas, a family of five who ran from the flames -- considered themselves lucky. They got out alive.

And they told us, as awful as the situation was, they realized there were people in far worse circumstances and they wanted to reach out to them. We walked the corridors of a stadium that seats more than 70,000. It was surreal to watch people sitting in the stands looking out to an empty football field, gazing at the TV monitors watching local news reports wondering if their neighborhoods had burned.

Walking into the bathroom watching women wrapped in blankets, brushing their teeth and putting on makeup. Walking the corridors near the concession area, seeing cots, blankets, exhausted evacuees laying on the floor. It touched me to see so many mothers wandering around with a look of fear in their eyes, looking for ways to comfort their small children. I

I've covered many fires, but have never been so touched by the massive human effort I saw at Qualcomm. Magicians like Tony Bradley who showed up early in the morning and stayed into their night blowing balloon hats for kids and making them smile, a ventriloquist who had kids laughing up a storm. Countless students who gave up their day to volunteer because they say they couldn't just sit around and watch TV and feel helpless. Even Marine reservists who had served in Iraq showed up in the wee hours in the morning with a truck full of diapers and formula, saying it was time to help their fellow Americans.

It was quite a sight to behold.

-- By Thelma Gutierrez, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 8:06 AM ET
  6 Comments
I watched in horror last night, as the Planet In Peril team revealed the extent to which WE are allowing species to be decimated by. This included, not only a whole mass of humanity still clinging to 2000 year old medical superstitions, but our own dear citizens of the US - the second largest market for exotic species.

This has to stop friends. We need to find out who these folks are and out them. This calls for tactics as dirty as any we use in Iraq or at least some intelligence, and yes - the spy kind as well.

Three things were blatantly obvious:

1) Complaisance by government agents - it was obvious that the teams of police at the street market and stalking the poachers were not serious. Anyone that has done any hunting could tell you that you don't send a bunch of guys crunching through the jungle announcing that you're coming and expect to catch anything. YOu don't come, lights flashing, with a gang of reporters to "sneek up on some merchants". COME ON! Any high school kid from Nebraska could have caught those merchants and poachers red handed - it's called stalking - you set up a blind, you set up a sting - it's kid stuff.

2) Need for stronger penalties
Same rationale as above - only it would be good if the poachers had their personal goods impounded and their families displaced. That might get their attention. NO more Lexus, mountaintop villa or penthouse in Bankok for you guys!

3) Pressure from world governments to reverse stupid laws like those that forbade the opening of shops (they need to learn "probable cause"). We need to boycott, protest and intervene in the commerce of countries aiding and abetting these perpetrators.

The thing that is missing there is "willingness and intent". Those governments are making such a killing (literally) from the poachers and merchants - why should they stop it?

Start with your congressman, representative and write letters to companies that support these governments. Your action can make a difference. Thanks to organizations like Trout Unlimited we are now replenishing previously lost habitat for native species through community action, educating the ignorant, sometimes even the unwilling, and teaching our kids that we have a responsibility to this planet. Your action counts. So does your inaction.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

Rob Thomas,
Past President Trout Unlimited,
Richmond Capital Chapter
Richmond, VA
Posted By robert : 9:46 AM ET
Hello, I'm from the New Orleans area and lived through Hurricane Katrina. I have noticed a great difference in the news coverage between Katrina and the California wildfires.
First of all, I'm not hearing anybody crying about FEMA and their actions, or lack of action. I am not hearing any stupid questions such as "where's George Bush?" and "why isn't the President doing anything about this?" I haven't heard anybody make any unbelievably stupid and ignorant statements such as "this is all George Bush's fault", "he (George Bush) hates 'rich' people", "George Bush hates white people" or "Goerge Bush planned this whole situation to get rid of those pesty southern Californians"

I have not seen any coverage of the 'global warming' crowd either. Why are they not being shown fighting the fires and rescueing pets and other animals? Why has Al Gore not stepped up and directed us in what we, as a country, can do to make our 'carbon footprint' less of an impact because of this extremely dire and unfortunate situation?

I've also noticed the difference in the way the people have acted and reacted to the situations. The people in California seemed to have heeded the warnings and directions of their local officials. They seem to have had enough common sense to process the idea that their lives were in danger, and reacted in a proper manner. I am not seeing people layed out on the side of the road, pointing their finger at the U.S. government while crying for someone to come to save them. The folks in California have not turned into "animals" and shot at helicopters, looted and tore up "Charger Stadium" and the such.

These are just a few of my initial thoughts about the differences in the coverage of these situations. Maybe you (the media) might offer a comparison of your coverages in these devastating situations. Maybe you can highlight the way that the people in Mississippi and California reacted in an emergency situation and the way the New Orleans folks acted, and the way you covered the situations.
Posted By Anonymous : 10:05 AM ET
13 years of experience means the writer wasn't around during Oakland Hills, and let me tell you, THAT was a fire. 3000 homes gone, $1.7 bil. in claims, which is like $3 bil. today. All estimates I see today are under a billion, with thw IIN saying $500 mil.
Posted By Anonymous : 1:14 PM ET
IT'S ALL ABOUT LEADERSHIP!!!

The difference between Katrina and the Southern California fires is Leadership. Not race, not income,
not politics. Just plain ol' leadership. Watching California's
Department of Emergency Management get in gear is amazing! From local to state to federal agencies working together is what NIMS is all about. Good Luck to everyone, our hearts here in Navarro County Texas are with you! DFlanagan, FC
Roane VFD
Posted By Texas Volunteer Fighter Fighter : 1:24 PM ET
This city, county and state learned some hard lessons about how to manage major wildfires and evacuations during the horrible fires 4 years ago and, as bad as this is, it is very good to know that the lessons were learned well.

The conditions that drove this year's fires were much worse than before but the response has been much better coordinated -- both by officials and the ordinary citizens.

Wherever you are, and whatever the specific risks in your area, be they wildfire, tornado or hurricane:

1. be prepared and knowledgeable about your own responsibilities in an emergency, (prevention, preparation, evacuation -- whatever is needed and appropriate. Don't wait around for someone to take care of you

2. get involved in your local government and make sure that the officials are actually planning for problems, not just playing politics

3. get involved in your community to know your neighbors and be ready to help -- it's is much easier to cope with a disaster if you are focussed on helping others instead of worrying about yourself
Posted By Anne, San Diego, CA : 5:38 PM ET
The response to these fires and the evacuees shows the benefit of a good plan and good organization and really good leadership. I hope more cities and states will look at California's plan and put one in place for their localities that work as well as this one seems to work. Unfortunately, we're probably going to need it.

Annie Kate
Birmingham AL
Posted By Annie Kate : 11:16 PM ET
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