Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wildfires in San Diego

I normally blog on Tuesdays, and was trying to decide whether to post today. A friend of mine included this comment in her email today:

From a "customer service" perspective, though, it looks as if the many agencies in charge have learned a lot from the wildfires [4 years ago] and the mistakes of Katrina. Maybe we truly are America's Finest City...

I agree with her. Since the national news media is only going to tell you about the disasters, I will tell you about the wonderful ways people are stepping up.

Somehow, at this writing (3:38 pm on Tuesday), 513,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. In a completely orderly fashion. No crazy traffic jams, no looting, just calmly going where they are
told and staying put. Amazing.

The city, county, state, and military are working beautifully together. A huge center has been set up at Qualcomm Stadium, hosting over 10,000 people last night. Here is the video from Signonsandiego.com

By the end of the day yesterday they had a "store" set up with everything people needed; they just stop by and pick it out. They had a pet center staffed with volunteer vet techs and piles of donated food, as well as a medical area for people with health problems.

The Del Mar Fairgrounds took in 1,800 horses and 2,000 people. Another area was set up for livestock on Fiesta Island in Mission Bay.

Signonsandiego (the online home of the San Diego Union-Tribune) has several fire blogs going. This one includes nice things that people are doing for each other. 600-700 volunteers showed up at the stadium to help out, and were organized and set onto tasks by the agency overseeing the stadium.

The Alpha Project, a social services agency in San Diego, served their customers—homeless people—by handing out masks (air quality is bad), food, and water downtown.

The Manchester Grand Hyatt has dropped their room prices from $289 to $139/night and is also allowing people to bring their pets (normally, they don't allow pets). They also donated 700 meals to the stadium. They had 700 evacuees there last night and are open to 1000 for the next three nights.

Every single TV channel is doing a wonderful job of covering the situation in a calm, organized, non-sensationalist manner. They have good maps they update regularly, and let people know what's happening with a "we're all in this together" feeling. Many of them have been on the air or out in the field for the last two days. It's striking when you compare it to the national coverage, which always goes for the sound bite while interviewing the plucky couple who have lost everything but their sense of humor.

Last but not least, the firefighters, police, emergency crews, and city workers, who are out there valiantly fighting these fires and trying to save homes in 90-100 degree heat and 50-60 mile per hour winds. We appreciate it! Stay safe.

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