I've seen a bit of self-congratulating going on regarding the government's response to San Diego and the supposed "lessons learned" from Katrina. Having had a front-row seat to the firestorm of 2007 in San Diego County, I have to say that it seems to me that people are trying to grab credit where none is really due.
There are huge differences between the San Diego fires and Katrina that may not be obvious to everyone. First of all, the San Diego fires struck some of the most affluent neighborhoods of San Diego and its suburbs. Rancho Bernardo and Rancho Santa Fe, two of the hardest hit areas, range from upper-middle class to mega-rich. Rancho Santa Fe is probably the most exclusive part of San Diego. Ramona and Poway (that's pronounced Pow-ay not Po-way) are also upper-middle class for the most part, and especially on the outskirts of those towns where the fires did the most damage. In addition, the large swath of territory that was evacuated in the northern part of the county also runs through some pretty prime real estate including Del Mar and Carmel Valley.
San Diego has one of the highest costs of living in the nation, and the fires affected the areas of the city that are distinctly upper and upper-middle class. South-east San Diego where the incomes are lower wasn't affected. There was a fire near the Mexican border, but again that affected affluent suburbs not the poorer areas.
I haven't seen any studies but I am guessing that the average income of the "refugee" families that fled the evacuation zones was over $100,000. I am sure this is a significant contrast to the incomes of those who ended up in the New Orleans Superdome.
While hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated only 10,000 or so ended up at Qualcomm Stadium. The rest of those people found hotel rooms or moved in with friends. Pretty much everyone had their own cars with which to make an escape. I haven't heard of anyone who could not leave because they didn't have a car as happened in New Orleans.
Evacuation routes were also not blocked as they were in New Orleans by flooding. The freeways were closed in certain areas, but there was always a way to get out no matter where you were by going the opposite direction. We should also note that San Diego boasts one of the best freeway systems in the country given the fact that mass transportation is virtually non-existent in the county.
People in San Diego are also more than familiar with this drill. When the fires start you need to watch the TV like a hawk to see where they are going. When the authorities tell you to get out, you go, no questions asked.
In short, there's probably no area in America that is better prepared and more able to perform a mass evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people than northern San Diego County. George Bush's public relations visit here last week was meant to show that the federal government was on top of the situation in San Diego unlike in New Orleans. The fact of the matter is that San Diegans responded to the crisis entirely on our own. Unlike the unfortunate souls stranded at the New Orleans Superdome we didn't really need the federal government in those first few days.
The real heroes of the San Diego fires are the firefighters who battled to protect individual homes as the fires burned out of control on Monday and Tuesday. I'll never forget one shot of a firefighter manning a bulldozer trying to build a fire line on the top of a hill. All you could see was the bulldozer and a wall of flame behind it as the firefighter worked the controls.
Oh, and believe it or not, these firefighters are members of a union.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!