Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 7, 2009

Here’s what the summer looks like… and next summer… and next…

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Risk Assessment,State and Local HLS — by Philip J. Palin on May 7, 2009


The Jesusita fire north of Santa Barbara, California has destroyed twenty homes and prompted the evacuation of at least 13,000.  This sentence will be re-written dozens of times in the weeks ahead with different details, but wildfire will be the consistent cause.

Arson is suspected in the current blaze.  The BBC quotes a county fire official, “We are in a state of emergency.  We’re running very, very thin.”  We should expect to hear variations of the quote as well.

The Los Angeles Daily News aptly headlines, “Santa Barbara fire signals horrific season ahead.”  Beginning in April this blog has given regular attention to the broader scientific and policy implications of wildfire.  Following are three relevant links:




The photograph was provided by AFP via the BBC, more photographs are available through the BBC link above.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

May 7, 2009 @ 7:17 am

Much more work and research needs to be done on the wildland/urban interface but in reality a new commission designed to help integrate the various fire systems in the US is necessary. Why? Well how about terrorist/arsonists use of fire? Is that a Homeland Security issue? What is the comprehensive and integrated and published and trained on DHS policy on wildland/urban interface? NADA! Why because the US Fire Adminstration keeps trying to survive by limiting its reach and outreach and viewing the somewhat non-traditional wildland/urban interface problem as not one for the traditional muncipal fire departments. US Fire Administration really needs to be a fully up-graded partner in FEMA and DHS. If long hot summers are the future, better to get started NOW! Agree wholeheartedly with this post.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 7, 2009 @ 7:21 am

What I should have also mentioned is the fire disaster assistance authorized under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act should be delegated directly to USFA to administer while other types of disasters can remain as currently delegated. Reason not really bureacratic efficiency but need for better statistics, tracking, research, technical assistance and training. Perhaps the Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974, as amended needs a fundamental rethinking. Also DoD has almost 50,000 civilian firefighters that could be used much more skillfully as a national asset. Perhaps a dual-use mission for the DOD firefighters. Again DOD gets what it needs while the civil agencies and State and local governments are starved for [preparedness funds.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 7, 2009 @ 7:41 am

Now that breakfast is over can also state that the 52 Congressmen/women and Senators from California really need to get interested in making sure that the President and OMB officials understand that while fires may occur somewhat locally their impact nationally even somewhat disaggregated make it a huge issue for federalism. Also while were at it, please rename the National Fire Academy at Emittsburg the “National Fire University.” Fire is a fully worthy opponent and its concurrence with earthquakes as in the 1906 fire in San Francisco is no fluke. There needs to be an understanding that “all-hazards” does not mean specific expertise is not necessary for a given hazard. Let’s build that expertise.

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