Monday, November 5, 2007

Governing Fire through Crime

The predictable focus on arson as the prime governmental issue in California's deadly wildfires this fall continued last week with Governor Schwarzenegger issuing the following statement on the fires:

10/27/2007 - Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today reinforced the state and
law enforcement’s strong commitment to capturing the criminals responsible
for intentionally setting at least two of the devastating southern
California fires. The Governor also discussed further actions the state is
taking to protect southern California fire victims by helping to ensure
that they are not taken advantage of during the rebuilding and recovery

“We already know at least two of the fires were started intentionally and
two more have suspicious origins. I want everyone to understand that we
are working with local and federal authorities to hunt down the people
responsible, arrest them and prosecute them to the full extent of the law.
And believe me, we will not fail,” said Governor Schwarzenegger.

Earlier this week, the Governor announced a $50,000 reward for information
leading toward the arrest and conviction in a California court of the
person or persons responsible for setting the Santiago Fire. In addition,
the FBI and ATF each contributed $50,000 and KFI Radio added $100,000.

In reiterating the state and law enforcement’s strong commitment to
catching the responsible parties, the Governor said that California is too
vulnerable to catastrophic fires to be anything less than super-vigilant
when it comes to going after arsonists.

To assist the victims in recovering from the devastation that these fires
caused, the Governor also discussed further actions the state is taking to
protect them during the recovery process. During a meeting the Governor
convened with state officials yesterday to discuss the state’s next steps,
the Governor said he would have no tolerance for price gougers or shady
contractors while all efforts are focused on putting southern California
back together.

“We are also going after the scam artists and price gougers, the insurance
claims adjuster rip-offs and shady contractors and anyone else who preys
on people hurt by these fires. We are as serious about protecting people
from cheats and criminals as we are about protecting them from fire,” said
Governor Schwarzenegger. “If anyone tries to exploit this tragedy, I will
make sure the state of California does everything in its power so they
regret it for a very long time.”

(read the Gov's full statement)

As I pointed out in a post several days ago, there is no reason to believe that even the most aggressive criminal enforcement against arson will do much to address the annual threat of wildfires which are far more often the result of accidents like sparks from a welding torch or power lines blown down in the very high winds that often accompany severe fire weather. Of course we can decide to punish the negligent or even hold power companies strictly liable and send their CEOs to prison. That may make us feel better. It won't make us safer.

1 comment:

  1. Jonathan--


    A fascinating piece on the privatization of fire rescue in the context of the wildfires by naomi klein in this week's Nation: