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Ron Fink: December Gloom Brings Death and Disaster

It seems that the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's brings both holiday cheer and catastrophic events in nearly equal measure.

While some folks are digesting their leftovers from an abundant Thanksgiving meal, they hear and read of the passing of a higher-than-normal rate of their fellow citizens. Whether it’s from slamming their car into an immovable object following a holiday party or simply passing away because of illness, there always seems to be more obituaries appearing in local papers.

Then there are the natural and man-caused disasters; looking at the sky and watching the newscasts gives us time to pause and reflect on our good fortune if we are not the subject of the news story.

As we see whole neighborhoods gobbled up in an endless firestorm and look to the skies above us and see the sun muted by huge clouds of smoke from burning vegetation and buildings that drift more than 100 miles, we wonder at the power of nature.

Major highways are closed as smoke and flames blow across the road. Commerce is interrupted, the mail doesn’t make it to its destination on time and millions of frustrated drivers must wait until it’s safe to move on to their destinations.

News people brave the smoke, wind and flying ash to bring us dramatic images of all the destruction, then return to show the burned-out hulks of cars, businesses and homes. It is discouraging to see your life’s work lying in heap in what once was a nice neighborhood.

Many of those losing their homes thought they were safe from these sorts of events, but as we have seen, especially this year, whole town sites and neighborhoods can be devoured in minutes, even if they are far away from the wildland. Many people have lost their businesses, homes and jobs.

These fires bring back memories of the Paint Fire in 1990 that destroyed 427 buildings in just a few hours. This fire originated on the San Marcos Pass and blew through Hope Ranch before it stopped.

Fire department officials and emergency managers always caution the populations they protect to have a plan for escape, especially if they live in the hills. These plans seem to be working as tens of thousands of people have escaped physical injury, but will be returning to a smoldering foundation instead of a comfortable home.

Next will come the inevitable floods that will bring tons of mud and debris into areas that weren’t wrecked by the fires. Even though plans are made, barriers erected and storm basins cleaned, the water and mud will come and erase man's efforts as gravity takes it all downhill.

For those of us who are unaffected by all this chaos, we should keep those less fortunate in mind. No matter what their station in life, or their economic means, all of these innocent victims deserve our prayers.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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