THE FIRES ARE COMING … How come, almost Pavlovian, we respond to fear like a flock of skittish sheep? Is it hardwired into our reptile brains? Is that why PR marketers and campaign operatives use our fears to manipulate us into actions we often regret? … If I tried to appeal to the communities of Telluride, Norwood and Egnar to become informed and attend an emergency preparedness session about drafting a comprehensive plan to address the threat of catastrophic fire in our county – say, on the scale of the Burn Canyon blaze – few of you would insert an extra evening meeting into your already busy schedules. I know I wouldn’t … Except that thanks to your good voting graces, I get paid to attend and to keep you informed of what’s important. And the county’s CWPP is one of those very important things (that’s a Community Wildfire Protection Plan) … It was funny when I tried to explain to my family and friends in California last summer, while taking hospice care of my dad, about why I was stocking up on canned food and bottled water – being prepared (as local authorities recommended) in case of an earthquake. They just laughed. When you live with a threat for a long time, you sometimes get inured. But I felt it made good sense, since I was the sole caretaker for a sick elder, that I not get caught unprepared in an emergency … As Sheriff Bill Masters noted at the Egnar meeting, “Fire is the one emergency we all face living here. Maybe an avalanche, or the occasional mudslide. But fire for sure.” So, I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you that many, many homes in San Miguel County face a significant risk of damage or destruction from wildfires, especially in a region prone to high lightning strikes … Volunteer fire departments know that, and so they are always trying to educate folks about the need to fireproof yards and secure defensible space around homes. After all it’s their lives that are on the line when wildfires threaten private residences … With good planning and some emergency preparedness, the chances of a home surviving, even in a high fire-risk area, are good. So the County, under the able graces of the Sheriff Department’s Jennifer Dinsmore has been working with the Anchor Point consultant group to develop a CWPP. The exercise is crucial because it provides baseline data of overall preparedness; provides maps of high risk areas; focuses on the training and equipment holes that need fixes; brings local, regional, state and federal partners together to coordinate planning; and alerts citizens on what can be done in the private sector to protect their valuable real estate investments … Unfortunately, as I was in California until the middle of last week, I couldn’t warn you about the Telluride, Norwood and Egnar meetings in this column. And most of you missed out. But I got back in time to attend the last two myself, and it was a real eye-opener, particularly in Egnar, learning about the limited resources and high risk areas (like the Spud Patch) that it will take big bucks to remedy. But the good news is that getting a CWPP done, which the County is on the verge of completing, puts us at the head of the line for state and federal funding, which is coming or is about to become available … One of the first things I’d like to see the County and the three fire districts partner up to do, maybe with the aid of a grant, is to offer screenings of some very informative videos on defensible space such as those done by the Forest Service’s Dr. Jack Cohen, “Preventing Home Ignitions” (for a brief look at a piece of that video, go to www.californiachaparral.com/bprotectingyourhome.html) … But why would anyone want to go see the videos, a.k.a. attend another meeting? Because we’d offer attendees the carrot of a free home inspection that could identify what remedies you could make to protect your home from a wildfire. And then you could choose what to do, knowing exactly what a fire expert had recommended … So, what can you, as a homeowner do, having missed the public meetings on the draft CWPP? You can, until Dec. 2, take a very short online survey that will help you understand some of the issues and which will help the County prepare a final CWPP. Go to the County website www.sanmiguelcounty.org and click on the tab that says NEWS and choose from two surveys, one for the east end and one for the west end … Having had a home burn down some 25+ years ago, I can promise you – it’s not an experience you want to add to your life list.
WILLOW IN ASIA … My oldest daughter, Iris Willow, has been teaching English as a second language in Vientiane, Laos, for the last six months. Her boyfriend, Bert Fan, got tapped to work for the Obama campaign in Boston (he’s a computer whiz) and so, for the first time in her life, she’s been living alone. During a semester break from teaching, she got to travel by herself to the Sabah region of Borneo, the third largest island in the world (part of Malaysia). I’ll be running an edited account of her travels in installments, like this.
KUALA LUMPUR … “My first stopover was the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur where I spent one night and the later part of an afternoon exploring the city, which felt gigantic coming from little ol’ Vientiane. I was dazed and dazzled by the skyscrapers, shopping malls, corporate logos, highways, MacDonald's, Starbucks and Sky Train. It was closer to a western city than I'd seen in awhile, but there were still many distinctive signs of Islamic culture around Kuala Lumpur that set it apart from the other Asian cities I've visited. There were many beautiful mosques dotting the skyline and throughout the city I saw many Malay women dressed in traditional Malay clothes, the baju kurung – a knee-length, loose, long sleeved shirt over a long, loose, ankle-length skirt, that reminded me of pajamas. Some women also wore head scarves. A few of the baju kurungs were of plain white or black, but the majority were made of bright, often wildly colored fabrics … While in Kuala Lumpur, I walked to the glass clad Petronas twin towers and the antenna topped Kuala Lumpur Tower that stand out in the city’s skyline. Then I spent the evening wandering around Little India looking at fabric stores filled with saris, rug shops, and lamp shops. I topped the night off with some Indian curry and a couple mango lassis.”
THE TALKING GOURD
There Are No Sidelines
as spectator sport. Got to
play for it to pay.