Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Caught in the firestorm

It may be a little difficult to understand the shear magnitude of the damage and disruption to lives being caused by the wildfires burning in Southern California.

The most recent accounts indicate that 350,000 homes have been evacuated. But what does that mean? Well, for those of us in the Pacific Northwest, image if the entire city of Seattle or Portland were evacuated. But if Seattle were evacuated, the city's residents would need to get about 80,000 more homes from the suburbs to go with them (Seattle had 270,000 housing units according to the 2000 Census). If Portland were evacuated, it would need more than 100,000 addition suburban homes to join the caravan (Portland had 237,000 housing units in the 2000 Census).

Or, to look at it another way, the city of New Orleans, so ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, had about 215,000 homes and about a half a million residents in the city proper.

Of course, not everyone evacuated from the California fires will lose their homes, but the magnitude of the displacement of people, their pets and in many cases their livestock, will create problems beyond just the brutal destruction caused by the flames.

Look for continuing coverage on the disaster at capitalpress.com. This week's edition on Oct. 26 will include details about some of the fires' effects on agriculture and livestock.

Click here for a video from Associated Press about how people are coping with the firestorm.

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