Wildfire and brimstone

Smoke has cleared; char and ash remain. Not only is that the physical condition of our fire-stricken county, it’s also a metaphor for controversies that have inflamed passions. Here’s what I’ve taken in—besides a lungful of particulate matter—this heated past week:

• The Humboldt Fire’s advance toward Paradise stopped right around the town limits. Coincidence or causality?

“That had more to do with the deployment strategy that CalFire put into effect in that area of the fire,” Town Manager Chuck Rough responded by e-mail. “They put significant resources into that area.”

A causality Rough didn’t raise is infrastructure: Paradise Irrigation District serves the town, which has a hydrant system, while properties outside Paradise proper have wells or other water arrangements.

• Routes off the Ridge seem more vital since this fast-moving blaze exposed an Achilles’ heel. At one point, CalFire had to close all five downhill roads: Honey Run, Skyway, Neal, Clark and Pentz. Earlier, when Pentz was the only one open, it took hours (two to four) to get from Lower Paradise to Highway 99.

Let’s move past this fire and look the other direction.

How realistic is evacuating 18,000 Magalians via a narrow mountain road, even with a nifty highway at the other end? Yes, the Upper Ridge Escape Route will be better than nothing … but is FH171, as Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi says, really the best place for $13.5 million in paving?

• As Jaime O’Neill points out in his essay, daily papers’ Web sites provided more of a public service than commercial TV and radio. Indeed, local stations were slow to expand their news slots, let alone update info. Maybe management thoughts get caught in the seven-second delay.

Seems to me that if L.A. stations can preempt programs for high-speed chases, surely an emergency can bump Inside Edition or Savage Nation.

(UPDATE: On KPAY’s Drive at Five June 19, Kelly Sanchez corrected me—fire news aired for much of last Thursday as well as the full slate of programs last Friday. To be precise, in choosing a KPAY slot when I heard upbraiding instead of updating, I should have said The Sean Hannity Show … though that doesn’t have the same ring, does it?)

• Thank goodness for AM 1500—Town of Paradise radio, with Chuck R. workin’ the mike.

• From fire to brimstone: I don’t have much to say about Candace Grubbs that’s not in the editorial. I like her personally, and as a Butte County citizen, I truly hope she’s been aboveboard with her reasons for discontinuing marriage ceremonies.

If not—if we come to learn it’s because she or clerk-recorder staff members aren’t comfortable with same-sex unions, and the budget talk and March timeline are CYA maneuvers—this matter will go from controversy to scandal. Covering up is always worse than fessing up.

• Mike Ramsey responded to our editorial “Two Wrights, two wrongs” with a “lawyer-like” (i.e. long) letter that’s this week’s Guest Comment. With respect, I’d just like to distinguish between what the DA calls Gregory’s “record of convictions” (burglaries and arson) and what the teen told investigators, which may suggest a history of violence but doesn’t constitute a record of violence.

The editor rests. Next item.

• Back up on Ridge, Robin Huffman seems to have had her fill of politics. In a letter sent to the CN&R—the beginning of which, focused on the fire, appears here—she wrote: “I will probably not run for re-election to Paradise Town Council. There are surely others willing to work on the council for a more sustainable community and for other needs.”

OK, OK: If elected by write-in, I’ll serve.