Commentary: Wildfires rivaling hurricanes

Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian who descends from the Turks and Caicos Islands. He is an international lawyer and political consultant - headquartered in Washington DC - who also publishes a current events weblog, The iPINIONS Journal, at

By Anthony L Hall

Here is how I began a commentary on the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States this season:

No doubt this hurricane will leave a lot of devastation in his wake, which will likely include more (preventable) casualties. But it’s important to maintain some perspective. For example, it might be helpful to know that, as weather-related and other natural disasters go, seasonal wildfires cause far more devastation than seasonal hurricanes.

(“Hurricane Harvey: Water, Water, Everywhere, But Not a Bone Should Sink,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 28, 2017)

Sure enough:

Wildfires engulfed more ground Tuesday across California’s wine country as firefighters struggled to contain wind-whipped flames that have killed at least [21] people, torched more than [3,500] homes and businesses and sent more than 20,000 people fleeing for safety.

At least 15 separate blazes burned in nine Northern California counties, prompting evacuations that included patients in threatened hospitals. Efforts to contain the fires were helped some by calmer winds overnight; but emergency officials cautioned that the conditions, particularly winds that at times exceeded 50 mph, could exacerbate the wildfires in the days ahead.

(Washington Post, October 10, 2017)

I’ve been lamenting the unspoken symmetry between hurricanes and wildfires for years. But this excerpt from “Independence Day Marred by Wildfires and Power Outages,” July 4, 2012, explains why I am loath to comment too much on the latter.


I’m on record observing that wildfires are becoming as menacing to Western states as hurricanes have always been to Southern states. Never mind that far too many of these fires are ignited not by Mother Nature, but by human beings.

Of course, I always feel sympathy for those who lose their homes, to say nothing of the firefighters who lose their lives — as four did just days ago. … But it’s becoming somewhat contrived to publish new commentaries on these annual outbreaks; a contrivance, incidentally, that is epitomized by cable news stations that cover these fires each year with eschatological, end-of-days enthusiasm.


All the same, I cannot resist this observation: America’s founding preamble states in part that “all men are created equal.” Yet there has probably never been more equality between rich and poor, white and non-white than there is today between Americans in Northern California’s wine country and those in Puerto Rico’s arrabales – who lost all of their worldly possessions to fire and hurricane, respectively.

Of course, this patina of equality will be shattered soon enough. Because the government is displaying speed and competence as it helps rich Californians rebuild their lives, which stands in dispiriting contrast with the slow and incompetent way it has been helping poor Puerto Ricans.

That said, perhaps nothing speaks to this unspoken symmetry quite like the deafening silence about these wildfires in President Trump’s Twitter feed: as of this writing, not a single tweet!

Mind you, this shows just how disconnected he is to the goings-on in his own government. It also explains why he can give his government’s relief efforts in Puerto Rico an “A+.” This, despite the fact that over 90 percent of its people (all US citizens) still have no electricity, over 50 percent still have no water, and nearly 50 percent still have no phone service.

Not to mention the looming health hazards posed by everything from lack of medicine and food to stray animals and unsanitary conditions across the island.

Meanwhile, over in California, those are cinders that were their homes …

But, evidently, Trump is too busy tweeting about black folks disrespecting the flag by kneeling, reverentially, during the national anthem. Never mind that he has yet to publish a single tweet about white folks disrespecting the flag by wearing it, irreverently, as everything from bikinis to bandanas. #Racist! #Hypocrite! #Idiot!

Related commentaries:
California’s fiery Katrina
Kneeling … flag and anthem

* This commentary was originally published at The iPINIONS Journal on Tuesday, October 10.



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