Several short days ago, east Anaheim residents were suddenly faced with the fiery fury of a savage brushfire. Fueled by 60-70 mile per hour winds, it forced thousands of Anaheim, Orange and Tustin residents to evacuate their homes with little or no notice. The Anaheim Fire Department and other local firefighters reacted quickly, professionally and bravely battled the fast-moving wall of flames.
Despite these efforts, the wind-driven fire consumed 80 structures and 9,217 acres were burned, and 3,500 structures threatened. We can only imagine and empathize with the heartbreak and sense of loss experienced by those whose homes disappeared in flames. Our prayers are with them as they move forward and re-build.
We can find inspiration and pride in how the best in our community emerged during this disaster. Neighbors helping neighbors and strangers to evacuate or hose down their homes in hopes of saving them – and opening their homes to those displaced by the fire, and their pets. We saw a fleet of equestrians from all over the region hitch up their horse trailers and converge on the mandatory evacuation areas to help desperate horse owners get their animals to safety. The worst of times can bring out the best in people, and we saw so many examples of it in last two weeks.
We must also be mindful of our fellow Californians in Santa Rosa and Napa, who were not nearly so fortunate. 42 people killed and thousands of homes consumed in an otherworldly inferno.
That no one died in the Canyon Fire 2 is a testament to the professionalism and bravery exhibited by the highly-trained men and women of our local firefighting units, especially the Anaheim Fire Department. It’s a minor miracle more homes and lives were not destroyed. Absent the AFD’s rapid response, the opposite could well have been the case.
One lesson we can derive from this disaster is the benefit of having our own fire department. Faced with this life-and-death emergency, the City of Anaheim was in control of its destiny thanks to having its own fire department, and not totally dependent on a fire agency over which we have limited influence.
Another lesson is the magnificence of our Anaheim firefighters and paramedics. As an Anaheim resident and former city council member, this has been apparent to me for many years – and I experienced it on a much more personal level this summer. My mother-in-law lives with my family. She is elderly and frail, and in August she suffered a stroke. A stroke is dangerous and can be crippling at any age, but is especially dangerous when it befalls the elderly. Absent prompt detection and attention, my mother-in-law could have been severely crippled or even died. Thank God for the Anaheim Fire Department, whose paramedics arrived at our home within minutes and were able to treat and stabilize my mother-in-law, and quickly transport her to the hospital. I’m happy to report my mother-in-law has fully recovered, and that is thanks to living in a community with a fire department with the resources to support highly-trained staff and enable rapid response times.
The City of Anaheim is currently in negations with the firefighters association. Negotiations between city management and employee associations are always purposeful interactions, and of course city management needs to protect the best interest of Anaheim taxpayers. At the same time, we have seen, in dramatic fashion, the depth of our firefighters dedication to preserving the lives and homes of Anaheim citizens – even at the cost of their own. I think the events of the past several weeks should cause all of us to hope for a positive and voluntary resolution of these negotiations on terms that everyone can live with.
The Canyon Fire 2 is a grim reminder of how suddenly and ferociously wildfire can erupt and place our homes and lives in dire jeopardy. We can be thankful we live in a city with the resources to support a world-class fire department of top-notch firefighters and paramedics. In combination with brave citizens and a fortunate turn in the weather, we avoided a much worse outcome.