Tag Archives: wildfires

Trump denies science … wow!

(Photo credit should read ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Donald Trump plastered a silly grin on his mug and then told a California environmental analyst that “I don’t think science knows” about the cause of wildfires that have incinerated millions of acres in three Pacific Coast states.

Trump ventured to California to inspect the damage done by the fires that have scorched about 5 million acres in Oregon and Washington in addition to California. He continues to insist that the way to prevent the intense fires is to practice something called “forest management.” He contends the states aren’t doing enough of it to keep the forests from igniting.

What he ignores, of course, is that much of the timber that has been burned stands on federal land, which comprises a great deal of the real estate in states out west.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom made it clear that in his view there is no “debate” over the existence of climate change. I happen to agree with the governor. I also happen to agree with scientists around the world that human activity has contributed greatly to the changing climate and that we are hurtling toward the point where Earth likely cannot be saved from the catastrophe that awaits.

So, to hear the president of the United States continue to deny scientific findings because he “thinks” science can be wrong displays a level of ignorance that puts the entire planet in dire peril.

Forest management vs. climate change?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Donald J. Trump continues to deny the impact of climate change on our nation and the world.

He went to California today to “inspect” the damage being done by fires that are ravaging the Pacific Coast states.

Does he say a word — anything at all — that recognizes the impact that climate change is delivering to those suffering from Mother Nature’s wrath? Nope. He said states need to do a better job of “managing” their forests. They need to clean them up better, get rid of the fuel that dries up and explodes in flames.

Oh, wait! How does this situation develop? I am going to presume that climate change is bringing about the intense fires.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared that the “debate is over” regarding climate change. I believe the governor is correct. I also believe the president is wrong to focus on forest management as a way to extinguish the flames.

What’s happening back home?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I lived in Oregon for my first 34 years of life on this Earth.

Not until this year have I seen the devastation that is occurring at this moment in my beloved home state.

I am heartbroken. Moreover, I am aghast at the scope of the fires that have swept through entire neighborhoods in the southern part of the state. I saw the pictures this morning out of Phoenix, a town near Medford. Words escape me.

What are we to make of the destruction that is threatening the Pacific Coast region? Washington is ablaze, as is California. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wants to label the fires “climate change fires,” not just “wildfires.” Inslee ran briefly for president this year, vowing to make climate change the signature issue of an Inslee administration. He won’t get the chance to set federal policy as president, but he is making a valid point about what climate change is doing to my home state and the states that border it north and south.

Will the federal government pay attention? We can be assured that Donald Trump won’t listen to the pleas of the governor he called a “snake” earlier this year. I doubt he’ll listen to Oregon Gov. Kate Walsh, or to California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Their biggest “sin,” along with Inslee, is that they are Democrats who also happen to believe that Earth’s climate is changing and that human activity has contributed greatly to what is happening at this very moment to their states.

I, too, believe climate change has exacerbated the destruction from the flames. I also want the federal government to step up its fight against the factors that have contributed to the unfolding tragedy.

I am enough of a realist to understand that the feds’ involvement will remain muted as long as Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office. Let the peril facing our good Earth be just one more reason to send the current president packing.

2020: Year of the First Responder

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I am pretty sure we all agree on this point: 2020 sucks out loud.

This calendar year has been one of the most eventful, consequential — and miserable — years many of us can remember. Our grandparents no doubt recall the Great Depression and then World War II. Then we had 1968, which brought the Vietnam War to a head and those terrible political assassinations.

But this year stands alone. The pandemic has killed hundreds of thousands of human beings. Now we have the fires that are sweeping through the three Pacific Coast states.

All of this is my way of saying that 2020 surely must be deemed The Year of the First Responder.

Heroes walk among us. They are the nurses and doctors who are tending to coronavirus patients. These nurses and doctors also are doubling as surrogate loved ones for patients who die alone; they cannot have their actual loved ones near them because of the highly infectious nature of the coronavirus, leaving the handholding to the medical pros who put their own lives on the line just tending to their patients.

Now comes the fires. The firefighters and police officers are plunging into the Hell on Earth in California, Oregon and Washington. They are running toward the flames. They are flying aircraft into the choking smoke. They are hugging victims of the fire, trying as best they can to lend comfort in a time of unspeakable tragedy.

Oh, we also have that presidential election coming up. Who’ll win it? Well, whether it’s Joe Biden or Donald Trump, the editors at Time magazine need not worry about naming one of them the magazine’s Person of the Year. They are playing second fiddle to the heroes in our hospitals, in our school classrooms, in our forests and our neighborhoods.

We all want the circumstances that are making this the most memorable year to end. I happen to stand in awe of those who are answering the call to help their fellow men and women in distress.

Stand tall, heroes.

Where is the concern about fires?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I watch the news a good bit of every single day, so I am compelled to ask: Has Donald Trump said a word in public about the fires that are destroying homes along the Pacific Coast of the United States of America?

Has he offered a word of concern? Have there been expressions of sadness? Of empathy? Has he offered a full federal response to assist the states that are battling these fires?

If he has, then it got past me.

Hey, I know the states of Oregon, Washington and California all are governed by Democrats. Donald Trump once referred to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee as a “snake” back when Washington was ground zero of the growing coronavirus pandemic.

He chastised California officials for allegedly failing to enact sound fire-management strategies when that state erupted a year ago from wildfires.

Oh, and let’s not forget the invective Trump has hurled at Oregon Gov. Kate Brown over the Black Lives Matter protests in Portland that have turned violent.

So now the states are on fire. Flames have incinerated entire neighborhoods in the southern Oregon town of Phoenix. Firefighters are pushed to the limits of their endurance throughout California.

Where is the president of the United States? Hello, Mr. President? Your fellow Americans are suffering!

Beautiful view … if only we could see it

MISSOULA, Mont. — Our drive today from West Yellowstone to Missoula was spectacular — or at least that’s what I’ll presume.

We couldn’t see much of what we understand is breathtaking mountain splendor.

Our 260-mile trek north and west was uneventful in important ways. We had no delays. Our truck performed perfectly. Our fifth wheel recreational vehicle followed along just as it is designed to do.

The obstruction to our sight-seeing while driving comes from smoke. Those wildfires that keep breaking out throughout the western United States are causing considerable havoc to those of us who want to enjoy the splendor the Almighty provides.

Do not misunderstand me. I am not going to bitch and moan about it Why? My inconvenience pales in comparison to the struggle being fought in those mountains, valleys and meadows by the firefighters who are thrusting themselves into harm’s way.

Our latest retirement trek will continue west before we head back home in a few days. I keep hearing about the smoke all along the way. I want it to clear out for totally selfish reasons, but also because — like all Americans — I want the firefighters to return home safely. Their children and spouses need them.

I won’t go too deeply into the climate change debate with this blog post. I’ll only re-state what I’ve believed for a good while: The weather is changing and we can expect more of these fires and more than likely they’ll arrive with increasing ferocity.

Millions more tourists just like my wife and me will be denied the chance to take in the view we know is out there … somewhere.

They come from all over to fight the fire

I never tire of saying good things about first responders.

The firefighters who at this moment are risking their lives — and in some instances losing their lives — deserve a good word today.

They are battling fire that is ravaging much of northern California. At last count (that I have heard) eight people have died from the fire. One of the blazes, the Carr fire, is believed to be the largest wildfire in California history.

What really doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves, though, when these tragedies occur is the inter-state cooperation that occurs among firefighting organizations. Sure, the media report on it; they mention on TV news broadcasts that fire crews have rushed to the aid of the local firefighters.

My wife and I got a  taste of just how extensive these inter-state efforts can get. We visited Grass Valley, Calif., a year ago on our way north to Portland. We parked our fifth wheel at the Nevada County Fairgrounds and became acquainted with firefighters who had encamped at the fairgrounds, which they used as a base camp from which they would confront the fires.

One of the senior firefighters told us fire crews had come from 12 states to assist the locals in battling the blazes that were terrorizing communities all over California.

Indeed, the Texas Panhandle — which also is susceptible to wildfire — earlier this summer welcomed fire crews from as far away as Oregon to assist crews battling the range fires that have blackened many thousands of acres.

These men and women are heroes in every sense of the word. They surrender their lives in the comfort of their own communities to assist their colleagues. They thrust themselves into harm’s way to protect human beings, livestock and pets from the merciless blaze.

Such heroism is presenting itself yet again out west.

All of these individuals deserve a nation’s prayers as they keep up the good fight against Mother Nature’s fury.

POTUS fails to perform this simple task

Donald J. Trump’s supporters don’t ever seem to hail the president’s empathy, his compassion, his sensitivity to others.

Have you noticed that?

Consider what a veteran broadcast journalist, Dan Rather, has tweeted about the president.

There are many difficult things for presidents to do. Finding space in your schedule (and soul) to speak empathetically about Americans suffering from natural disasters (wildfires, hurricanes) shouldn’t be one of them. And yet Pres. Trump routinely fails in this human instinct.

The president cannot seem to bring himself to express any support for these victims. Instead, he has chosen to blast environmental laws in a nonsensical attack on the wrong culprit.

Donald Trump has failed to perform one of those tasks that we all expect of our president. Ronald Reagan rose to the occasion, as did George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. All of them had reason to speak to the nation about the suffering our fellow Americans experienced. They comforted the heartbroken. They fulfilled the role of Comforter in Chief.

The current president cannot bring himself to do what is expected of him? Shameful.

Happy Trails, Part 94: Home is where you park it

It’s not often at all that I adopt a bumper sticker slogan as a mantra for living.

But I have done that very thing. We now live according a slogan we saw on an RV: Home is where you park it.

We just returned from a two-week sojourn — all in Texas — through the South Plains, the Hill Country, the Piney Woods, the Golden Triangle and the Metroplex.

Along the way, I adopted a new manner of referring to “home.” You see, now that my wife and I are no longer tethered to property attached to the ground, we now refer to our fifth wheel as home.

So, instead of saying I’m “going home,” I find myself referring to some geographical location. Home is attached to the back of our pickup, or it’s anchored to an RV campsite temporarily — until we head for the next place.

Our return to Amarillo reminded us of one of the “charms” of living on the High Plains of Texas.

It’s the wind, man!

Holy moly, it was howling when we departed in early April. It was howling today when we pulled into our RV park/temporary residence. We had read about the wildfires that scorched lots of ranch land; this afternoon, we saw evidence of them along U.S. 287 just west of Clarendon, where we understand the fire caused closure of the highway for several hours while heroic firefighters battled the blaze.

This arrangement — an RV serving as our “home” — won’t last forever. I don’t want to give away too much, but we might have located a precise location to resettle once we depart Amarillo on a (more or less) permanent basis. I’ll have more on that later.

In the meantime, our life now is a reflection of a slogan made popular by other RVers.

It’s cool.

Giving thanks once more for local heroes

I cannot say this enough, so forgive me if you have heard this before.

Our firefighters and other first responders continue to amaze me. I am grateful beyond measure for the work they do, the service they provide and the protection they provide to the community they swear to protect.

Some wildfires erupted west of Amarillo last night. The wind was merciless, relentless and unforgiving. The people who ran straight toward the potential danger kicked into high-gear action immediately.

Amarillo and Potter County fire crews were able to contain the blazes in fairly quick fashion.

It occurs to me that these folks are pretty damn good at this firefighting stuff. No, they’re real good at it.

We toss the “hero” term around a bit too loosely. We hang the label on athletes. We’ve actually called actors over many years “heroes” because they portray them on film or TV. I prefer the term “role model” to describe athletes’ public standing. I’ll leave that discussion at that.

As for actual heroes, they work for us, for you and me. They are public servants. Some of them don’t even get paid for their heroism. They are the volunteer firefighters who often serve in the rural communities surrounding Amarillo. They have day jobs but choose to respond when the fire alarm goes off — at which time they rush into harm’s way.

They do this to protect us. They shield us from the dangers that fire presents. These days that danger is heightened by the dual factors of high wind and lack of moisture. I cannot even remember the last time it rained in our community.

One more time — and it won’t be the final time — I want to extend a public thank you to the men and women who answer the call on our behalf. You are heroes. We all appreciate you.