August 7, 2010. The European territory of Russia experiences its largest wave of wildfires since 1943. A total of 853 fires, many of them peat fires, with a total area under fire of 500,000 acres. Some of the fires have been raging for a week. In some provinces, several wildfires meet each other and take over areas as big as an average American County. Large cities like Moscow, Voronezh, Saint Petersburg, Novgorod, are buried in smoke. Gas masks are distributed to the population. At Sheremetyevo international airport in Moscow the visibility is reduced to 1,000 feet. Viewed from space, thick smoke from the wildfires covers a territory the size of France and Germany combined. The smoke rises to altitudes of 7 to 8 miles and enters the stratosphere, which usually happens only in violent volcanic eruptions.
But August 7 was also a turning point in the fight against the fires. Organized by the virtual community LiveJournal, more than 100,000 volunteers left their homes and arrived at the wildfire zones to help the professional firefighters. At first they were snubbed by the professionals. But Russian Federal agents quickly realized the potential. Volunteers were organized, given quick training courses, and then thrown in the fight. Whole cities were saved by volunteers who in the struggling Russian economy used their own money to buy pumps and other equipment, delivered food and water to the professional firemen, kept watch and isolated pockets of re-ignited fires, and sometimes used basic tools like shovels and buckets with water and sand to suppress local fires and save whole villages.
Five days later, on August 12, the number of fires was brought down to 560, and the territory of the fires was reduced to 200,000 acres. The skies over Moscow and other cities were cleared. The situation was under control.
On the 13th, after all the fires were brought under control, the weather changed and heavy rains fell around Moscow, bringing relief to the nation. The six days of violent struggle produced two casualties among the volunteers: One in action, and one from carbon monoxide poisoning.
By the admission of the press and of government officials, it was volunteers who saved Russia in those 6 days. And we should add, and the Federal agents who acted quick to train and organize them; doing what Federal agents are supposed to do.
I do not mean in any possible way to say that the wildfires we have this year in Texas are insignificant. And yet, compared to the wildfires in Russia a year ago, our wildfires seem rather small. There is no heavy smoke over all Texas, and the cities’ inhabitants do not have to have gas masks to go to outside of their houses. There are no pelt fires, and unlike Russia, there are no places in Texas unreachable for fire trucks; neither are there the thick pine forests Russia is known for. Firefighters in Texas have much better equipment than the Russians. And better roads.
But some of those fires are going now for over a week. And there isn’t much progress.
Why? May be Texas has no volunteers?
She does have them. But she also has a Federal government that employs the most expensive and the dumbest Federal agents in the world. Unlike their Russian counterparts who quickly realized the potential of volunteers and acted quickly to train them and organize them, our own Federal agents are turning volunteers away. Volunteers, many of whom need no training because they are retired firemen, army officers, police officers; some of them have been in situations much worse than anything the Feds have ever seen. Volunteers who come with their own trucks, equipment, food, etc., have no place in the Feds’ scheme; the issue apparently is pulling rank, not so much dealing with wildfires. And the Feds are doing nothing to stop the fires; some wildfires, like the one in Bastrop County, are expanding, and still not under control. But volunteers are not necessary.
The Texas wildfires may be just another proof that the Federal government is not only not helpful, but positively harmful to the American society. Reagan’s words, that the most terrifying words in the world are, “We are from the government, and we are here to help,” are proving true with every day. Feds must be kept as far away as possible, if we want our houses, our families, and our lives to be safe. Hopefully we will realize this truth soon enough, before the whole nation burns under the Federal government’s efforts to help it.