(Bush arrives today in Southern California. Photo: (AP Photo/Chris Park)
Let me preface this with saying that comparing disasters candevolve into something which is not helpful and can be hurtful to all involved. Whether one loses their home to flood or fire, whether thousands of neighbors lose their homes or be it hundred of thousands, the hard terrible painful fact remains your home is gone. At that level, a disaster is a disaster is a disaster. But as Bush lands in California to, as theWaPo reports, “showcase his administration’s ability to respond better to natural disasters than it did after Hurricane Katrina two years ago” comparisons need to be made to determine if that conclusion is warranted. Fortunately, that WaPo article does a good job of doing just that.
First as WaPo reports this has not been much of a test for FEMA as their “responsibilities for battling wildfires are far more limited than its role in dealing with hurricane damage.” The former undersecretary of preparedness for DHS is quoted as saying
“FEMA is not getting a real test in putting direct federal assets on the ground.”
Second and if only cable/network news would have done thisas well…the article does an excellent job of comparing the difference in scope between the 2 disasters:
Still, the relatively smooth response to this season’s devastating
wildfires says more about California’s efforts over the years than the
federal government’s, several veteran federal, state and local
emergency managers said.
While Katrina’s vast floods and winds covered an area the size ofBritain
at 90,000 square miles, fires in seven California counties blackened
about 700 square miles as of yesterday — a footprint one-third smaller
than wildfires burned there four years ago. The number of homes
destroyed was about 1 percent of the 300,000 made uninhabitable by
Katrina, and financial losses were less than 2 percent, based on
initial estimates, comparable to the damage caused by wildfires inOakland in 1991 and in Southern California in 2003.
Local officials have choreographed the largest evacuation in Golden
State history, with estimates of the people instructed to leave their
homes at 351,000. But many began returning yesterday. Katrina prompted
the evacuation of 1.1 million people, and 500,000 were still displaced
after four months.
The article notes that some, including Democrats, have given Bush credit for his quick response by doing this…