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Fire Weather IV – The Day of the Devils – UPDATED

October 24th, 2007 by Celeste Fremon

rancho-bernardo-genaro-mol.gif

My longtime close friend, writer John Leone, lives in the city of Del Mar, near San Diego.
Tuesday morning, he wrote the following essay and sent it out to a list of friends, myself among them:

THE DAY OF THE DEVILS

John Leone

Rancho Santa Fe
Del Mar
Oct 23, 2007

45 houses burnt to the ground in Rancho Santa Fe, California’s most exclusive suburb, last night and this morning. The rich inhabitants escaped yesterday after a mandatory evacuation order.

My maids Ana Maria and Ana Luisa
, who occupy servants’ quarters in Rancho Santa Fe, spent the night with three of their children in my guest bedrooms and downstairs. Their husbands had returned to Mexico to attend to extensive fire damage in Baja California.

California Highway Patrolmen came across an encampment of indocumentados running from the flames in McGonnigle Canyon, crossing an unfinished segment of CA Highway 56, according to radio reports. The group were camping in the billowing smoke on an unopened stretch of the highway. The Mexican workers told the CHP that they had become separated from a group three times their size, who were trying to simultaneously escape the conflagration and avoid detection. They had no idea what had happened to their compas. “It’s the Day of the Devils,” said one man in Spanish.

The biggest and most destructive of all the fires, the Witch Creek fire, after burning 600 homes in Rancho Bernardo, has ramped like a flaming caterpillar into this most exclusive area and is burning down the Del Dios Highway towards Via de la Valle and Del Mar, where some 5000 people spent the night under mandatory evacuation orders at the Del Mar Race Track.

My friend Bill Brooks’ 86-year-old mother was told by police to leave her Del Mar home and dutifully reported to the race track. She spent the night in the ash and respiratory danger zone instead of comfortably at home. But she has a very nice place to return to, which the nursing home and hospital patients, evacuated by the thousands, do not. Many sat out all night in the open under the smoke.

The works of man are resisted everywhere by Nature, and most of the destruction until now has taken place in new developments, in suburban cul-de-sacs, once chaparral which used to have natural yearly burn-offs. It is the equivalent of building in hurricane zones.

The flames continue to consume
the lavish homes of the extremely rich and flush out the extremely poor who serve them from the ravines and arroyos in which they hide from la migra. “The flames are climbing over the ridges,” says a woman in Elfin Forest, an Encinitas suburb abutting Rancho. “We can see them on three sides. The poor Mexicans are walking along the roads. It’s like a war scene.”

The ashen air makes breathing difficult. The firestorm has a peculiar inevitability as it marches towards the west and the coastline, devouring fantastically expensive real estate, making the unthinkable come true. This has never happened before, not in the history of the state. Natives say it’s because of development, the cause of most ailments in the state. The average cost of the homes destroyed in Rancho Bernardo is over a million dollars,
and in Rancho Santa Fe many times that.

The malevolence of the fire makes one imagine purposeful violence against these places, and the helpless refugees evoke imagery familiar to all from war documentaries, but they’re not being shown on television, because these poor souls are not movie mavens or big shots or anything except desperate human beings with nowhere to go, fearful of the authorities who are helping the rich all around them.

FIRE UPDATE #1:

For those of you following Rebel Girl’s Santiago Fire evacuation saga, as of 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, she reports that, according to a neighbor who managed to get back in to Modjeska Canyon, her house is still standing, and the sprinklers she and her huz managed to get up on the structure’s roof, are still up there and sprinkling away.

Photo of the burning mountainside in Rancho Bernardo by Genero Molina/LA Times

Posted in bears and alligators, environment, Fire, immigration, Life in general | 28 Comments »

28 Responses

  1. Woody Says:

    The rich inhabitants escaped….
    Well, I should hope so. They didn’t get rich by being stupid. So, by Leone’s account, natural fires become an opening to the issue of wealth envy.

    California Highway Patrolmen came across an encampment of indocumentados
    The inmigrantes ilegales are dealing with this problem because they didn’t stay in Mexico. By Leone’s account, the fire is also a cause to support illegals.

    And so forth and so on.

    Your buddy’s article isn’t about the fire. It’s about “the rich” and economic disparities. I guess that his next article will discuss how the war in Iraq is responsible for this.

    Liberals just can’t help themselves.

  2. Rebel Girl Says:

    Thanks for this Celeste. I’ll pass it on Good morning and good luck.

  3. listener_on_the_sidelines Says:

    If I were to adopt a purely rational position with regard to that wealthy family, I’d argue that they were in violation of their contract with their live-in housekeeper. Since, lodging is part of their employment agreement. When they were instructed to evacuate, that did not relieve the employer of the lodging obligation aspect of that contractual agreement.

    On a purely emotive level, What a $^(& @$$ thing to do!

  4. Rebel Girl Says:

    This also reminds me of a similar story that surfaced during the Laguna fires about a family who left their “housekeeper” at their home after they had evacuated…

  5. Woody Says:

    listener, I’d say that there was no formal or even implied contract for the employer to provide living quarters, but, if there was, the employer could terminate it at will. Further, while I’m not a lawyer, it would seem to me that someone who is in this country illegally could not enter into a legal employment contract. The position of the employer would be made stronger in that the government authorities had ordered an evacuation. Maybe the duty to provide housing, then, could have fallen to those authorities, but, in reality, the people responsible for their housing are those people who need it. It’s called personal responsibility. That’s rational.

    As usual, rather than appreciate the wealthy family providing a place to live at times, someone on the left views it as some kind of permanent right and gets bent out of shape when it ends. That’s irrational and emotional.

  6. L.A. Resident Says:

    The issue of helping another human being in a disaster has nothing to do with the law but is a moral issue. If I have someone living in my house even if it’s an unwanted mother in-law, I will help her, you would have to be a complete a**hole NOT to help another human being in this type of situation. It’s amazing how the fighter-fighters will risk their lives to save a house but others a**holes can’t extend a helping hand to a fellow human being.

    I will you leave with a question “What would Jesus Do?”

  7. maggie Says:

    The San Diego armory is full of people — there are a million evacuees by now — virtually all the “wealthy” who lost their homes. Hotels are full and not even available, I’ve read. So maybe this family expected and discussed with the housekeepers about going there for shelter. Where do those women live when they’re not in a live-in position? Every such people I know of in those situations have extended families — women alone in this country seems unusual. Yes, something they have to think about if they’re going to come here with kids. And yes, it’s predictable that this would be the slant of Leone’s piece: aren’t the rich horrible.

    (By the way, Steve Lopez in the Times wrote about the reverse racism against the “rich” and “white” victims I’d noted in their reader blog — hours after I did here in your little blog. So there poor and “people of color” who hate “rich whites” for class and racial reason, and there are white liberals who — hate “rich whites” for class and racial reasons. Thank goodness there are also writers like Lopez who can acknowledge the other face of hatred, too. Even IF he ended his piece by saying he’s off to see the fires himself, to add to the swarm of “how does it feel to have your house burn down?” reporters.)

    Woody — Lt. Gov. Garamendi DID in fact inject Iraq into the issue. Apparently when Chris Matthews asked him if he thought Bush coming to declare the fires an emergency — or maybe a disaster, making funds available to individuals as well as the government — was necessary or just P R., Garamendi said something about how the state would have had more resources to fight the fires if the armed forces were here and not tied up in Iraq. There’s controversy over it, even The View debated whether this comment was in poor taste, even if possibly true.

  8. maggie Says:

    The LAT has a feature on San Diego’s Qualcomm Center, where the evacuees are housed, as “A Shelter to Behold,” the Ritz of shelters. Raves about barbecues in the parking lot, delicious food in the chow line, Red Bull on demand, tons of volunteers and donated food and supplies. One resident calls the food and service better than at a restaurant.

    But I do believe the family in question should have taken the housekeepers to the shelter, instead of just leaving them in the house or even just giving them directions to go there. IF they were working for me, I’d also just feel a lot better knowing WHERE they were getting housed and how to reach them when things settled down. — But let’s remember, we never heard the family’s side of the story. That would be a prerequisite to anything resembling responsible journalism, instead of just taking random political shots.

  9. Woody Says:

    maggie, I guess Bush is using the fires to change the topic away from Iraq. But, on the other hand, had he not addressed the fires, they would have criticized him for that, too. With the twisted thinking of the left, Bush loses no matter what he does.

    L.A. Res, it was Listener who raised this as a legal obligation rather than a moral one. My moral choice and my ability to help someone may not be the same as those of someone else. I can suggest what to do, but I can’t insist and I’m not going to get mad if someone does not act accordingly. I also don’t know their individual situations.

    I suspect that you really don’t care what Jesus would do, but maybe you can tell us all that you have done to this point to help those who have been evacuated and how many illegals you have invited into your own house. Five, ten, …? Oh, that’s right, liberals are generous with the money of other people more so than their own.

  10. L.A. Resident Says:

    Woody a fool like you does not even deserve a serious response; I see why they call you a troll over at Marc Cooper’s blog and ran you off like a pesky fly.

  11. Woody Says:

    L.A. Resident, anyone who points out the flaws of a liberal is called a lot of names, with troll being the least of them. I was at Marc Cooper’s long before reg and his ilk overwhelmed the site, and they didn’t run me off. I had the class and respect for Marc to back off on my own when they couldn’t control their emotions and language and were ruining his site. If any are the trolls, it’s reg and you, since both of you came in late and want to redo these sites into liberal propanda mediums.

    Now, how many people running from the fire did you invite into your home, or are you trying to avoid the question by changing the subject to me? That’s a common tactic, but it never works. How many? Tell us, since you have condemned others without even checking their sides.

  12. Los Angeles County Fire Department Says:

    Celeste run, run, run your blog is being torched by liberal propaganda mediums. We will do our best to extinguish the liberal mediums with our high pressure water hoses and Phos-Chek air drops. Celeste the liberals are scarier and more dangerous than any raging fire fueled by strong Santa Ana winds. We the brave men of Los Angeles County Fire Department will lay our lives on the line to protect you and your beloved blog from the flaming propaganda of liberals.

  13. Woody Says:

    It looks as if the darling rebel of the Left has figured you guys out.

    Comedian George Carlin blames the victims on the Southern California wildfires. Appearing on the October 24 edition of “The View” Carlin said, because many of these home owners “overbuild” and “put nature to the test,” “they get what’s coming to them.”

    I figured out why Bush is responsible for the So Cal fires. He had the Left so preoccupied with fighting him over Iraq (for his amusement) that they didn’t think to take care of things at home. It’s clearly his fault.

    Hey, L.A. Res, I heard that there is a number to call to volunteer your home to put up those run from their houses by the fires. Beinig a good liberal, perhaps you could post it and tell us how many you are helping.

  14. maggie Says:

    Big Bear is being spared the devastation of Arrowhead this time because they had a recent fire that got rid of a lot of their tinder, which is the problem in Arrowhead: tree mites (or something killing trees) has rendered most of them hollow and half-dead, ready to go up in flames. Many Arrowhead residents have resisted chopping them down as aggressively as their fire dept. advised, since these mtn communities are characterized by their trees.

    I’m sure many are sorry now. People do need to do more to clear brush, dying trees and other likely hazards. Also it’s suggested by not required that they remove old shake roofs.

    As for Malibu, well, the “rich whites” are hated by some poor ethnics in that blog, by other more conservative “rich whites” for being anti-American, and the “rich whites” in conservative burbs around San Diego, for being bad people.
    However, lots of “regular” people have been picthing in and showing the best of America, like the Qualcomm volunteers.

    Meanwhile, Lou Dobbs/CNN is conducting a viewer poll on media coverage: people find it all very negative and depressing. I agree that if they’re going to swarm up there they should be more useful, giving info on shelters, how to get and organize help for the victims, etc. As Celeste finds, they can’t even be relied on for evacuation updates.

    (After this bombardment of negativity, we’ll all need those hair guys’ rejuvenation/visualization/empowerment seminars.)

  15. Randy Paul Says:

    Further, while I’m not a lawyer, it would seem to me that someone who is in this country illegally could not enter into a legal employment contract.

    While I don’t believe that this has ever been pursued on the federal level, there have been numerous instances in states like NY and California in which immigrants whose status in this country is not legal have successfully sued employers for wage and hours violations, getting back py for receiving pay that amounted to less than minimum age.

    Here’s one such instance: http://www.oag.state.ny.us/press/2001/nov/nov20a_01.html

  16. Woody Says:

    Wage-Hour Laws do not represent contracts between employers and workers, but rather are laws from government to employers. Thanks for contributing nothing to the discussion, Randy, except to show how petty you can be.

  17. Randy Paul Says:

    Woody,

    Petty? Woody, I responded to your comment courteously and factually. others can judge as to whether or not i was petty.

    Contracts, by the way are also governed by laws, which was the larger point you missed: if wage and hour issues are governed by laws and are enforceable even for immigrants outside legal status, then contracts would also be enforceable as a matter of law.

    I responded courteously with no rancor and no ad hominem. I thought I’d appeal to your sense of decency. Silly of me to think you had one.

  18. Woody Says:

    Randy, a “polite” correction that is off-topic, extremely minor, and disputable on the facts is still nothing but a petty jab. Your only point was to hope to show that I made a mistake, which I didn’t. I can point out, and others can see, that such reponses from you are petty, as they usually are. If you want get into a slapping contest, at least do it within the substance of the post.

  19. Randy Paul Says:

    LA Resident: You’ve been vindicated.

  20. maggie Says:

    Randy Paul is L A Resident, I assumed from the tone.

    While I won’t touch who’s been vindicated or petty or not, clearly the intent of initial correction was just to assert that illegals do have a right to sue their employers if not paid min. wage and all benefits — in other words, beware, you conservative abusers of labor (this is the thread condemning the “rich” family for not taking their housekeepers to a hotel).

    I do know, empirically, that neighbors who’d done legal staff a “favor” by giving jobs to an illegal relative at their request, have been threatened with suits after working a short amount of time. They worked out a settlement to let get the person to quit. This happens often enough, that I’d never consider employing an illegal — no savings, just litigation and ICE risk. (As we see, there are also increasingly aggressive pro-illegals marches, demanding the same rights across the board as legal residents.) So where is the “benefit of cheap labor” advocates of an open border we keep talking about? I’m NOT advocating this second tier of workers, just noting that that argument in favor of illegal immigration is nonsense. There are too many gray areas in terms of legality, personal ethics, etc.

  21. Randy Paul Says:

    Randy Paul is L A Resident, I assumed from the tone.

    Not true. I always use my own name and don’t engage in sock puppetry.

  22. Randy Paul Says:

    I also live in New York.

  23. Woody Says:

    You’re pretty sad, Randy. I quit commenting at Marc Cooper’s because people like reg and yourself just couldn’t contain your bile and ruined the discussion threads.

    And, rather than coming here to discuss issues, you brought the fight over by making an off-topic comment whose only purpose was to say that I was wrong on something–which, btw, I wasn’t–and then pretend to raise your arms in victory. Pathetic.

    LA Resident and your ilk have not been vindicated. In fact, it is you two who are coming across as the trolls…and ignorant.

    What’s wrong? Are you so insecure that you don’t want my comments anywhere on the internet? Do you have to follow me?

    maggie, so you’ll know Randy if you see him on the street…from his own site Link: Randy Paul

  24. maggie Says:

    Randy Paul, then what do you mean by “L A Res you’ve been vindicated?” It was Listener who said the family’s obligation to provide the housekeepers housing at all times, was a legal agreement. (That legality has not been established, anyway.)

    Yes, it does get hard to tell everyone apart, even for other bloggers, it seems, since it’s a sort of unanimity of opinion against Woody. (Whom I often don’t agree with, but there’s no confusing him with anyone else.)

  25. Randy Paul Says:

    Maggie,

    I was referring to comment number 10.

    As for Woody’s comment, it doesn’t merit a response.

  26. Woody Says:

    Don’t forget comment #11. Randy, don’t attack me unless you want an answer back. Now, go running back to a safe haven like at Marc Cooper’s and Huffington.

  27. Randy Paul Says:

    Something else that doesn’t merit a response

  28. Celeste Fremon Says:

    Dear everyone:

    I’ve been out at a journalism conference last night and all day today. So I have just now read this thread.

    I’ve received several emails about the fact that it’s filled with personal attacks, and indeed it is. Sparring is fine. I value the fact that we have both liberals and conservatives coming to argue. I assume each of you do too, or you wouldn’t show up.

    But the “Jane-you-ignorant-slut” variety ad hominem slams have gotten over the top and have high-jacked a couple of threads, this one most prominently.

    Enough. Attack issues and/or opinions, not individual people.

    You all know the difference.

    Being an enforcer is not something that suits my personality. So please don’t put me in the position where I must become one.

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