So You Want To Politicize Tragedy, Do You?

We were taken aback a couple of weeks ago to see freshman Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado call for an investigation into the possibility–based on nothing but uninformed speculation–that federal roadless area policies (meaning “the government”) might have contributed to the High Park Fire that ravaged the mountains above Fort Collins. Gardner admitted that he didn’t know “whether or not” these policies had a thing to do with the fire, but that didn’t stop him from baselessly raising “the possibility.” After a great deal of criticism, Gardner appears to have backed off of this request–or at least isn’t discussing it publicly as much.

Today, the Colorado Springs Gazette published an editorial titled “Obama shrunk aerial firefighting fleet,” which actually attempts to lay at least partial blame for the wildfire terrorizing the city’s residents at the feet of Barack Obama’s administration. “As fire rages out of control on the edge of Colorado Springs,” writes editor Wayne Laugesen, “threatening lives and property, it is time we listen to those who have warned us about the negative effect environmentalists and President Barack Obama have had on the federal government’s ability to fight fires.”

The truth? Most of those firefighting planes were grounded during the Bush administration.

The fleet numbered 44 planes a decade ago. A series of high-profile crashes, including wings that fell off a privately-owned C-130 and a 1940s-era PB4Y-2 Privateer in midflight, caused the Forest Service to ground 33 air tankers in 2004. [Pols emphasis]

A contract with another federal contractor, Aero Union, was canceled last year due to safety concerns, grounding 8 more tankers. Military C-130 firefighting aircraft are now being deployed here to help make up the gap, and President Obama recently signed legislation to contract a new generation of aerial tankers. But the Gazette doesn’t even try to get these details straight. It’s one thing to discuss the politics of a natural disaster. But to so brazenly mislead one’s readers about this while their homes are burning down is truly breathtaking.

And if Republicans want to politicize wildfire preparedness, is turnabout fair play?

[T]he economic downturn and a Congress dominated by Republicans who want to shrink the role of government make it extremely complicated to divert more funds to forest fighting.

Instead, funding for preventing and putting out wildfires has fallen by $512m, or about 15%, since 2010. [Pols emphasis]

Campaigners say that leaves the federal government agencies responsible for preventing and putting out wildfires under-funded – especially given projections suggesting a rise in wildfires over the next 20 years.

Not to mention,

The resources for fighting fires in Colorado are so bad that a delegation was formed by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R  3d CD), Rep. Cory Gardner (R 4th CD), and Rep, Mike Coffman (R 6th CD) demanding  the  federal government provide more funds and equipment to help fight the expanding fires.

It’s unfortunate that all three of these U.S. Representatives demanding help for their home state also voted for the Paul Ryan budget cuts which [would have] drastically reduced the funding for the federal firefighting program.

Folks, this could be one of the most disgraceful, hypocritical, and downright Orwellian moments of absurdity we have ever witnessed in Colorado politics. The very same legislators who have voted to slash funding for firefighting are now blaming “big government” Obama for a lack of resources? It is perhaps most disturbing to see this going on with no challenge from, and even abetted by, our local media. Who will tell the truth to a frightened and manipulable public?

On an objective, nonpartisan level, this should not be acceptable.

19 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. harrydoby says:

    How else will there be enough economic growth and new jobs created to pay for all that firefighting equipment?

  2. dmindgo says:

    this is how things are done ever since Congress put spending for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars outside the budget.  Tornadoes in Texas?  Wildfire in Colorado?  Floods in Alabama?  Send the money and just tack it onto our tab.

  3. Half Glass Full says:

    I hope his stupid chin slinkie catches on fire. wayne.laugesen@gazette.com

    You can bet he won’t write a retraction or issue a correction. He’s lower than whale poop.

  4. Lurker19 says:

    was Obama’s fault for cutting the air fleet as some Republican lawmakers had suggested.

    Hick asked the reporter if he meant the Republicans who think Obama’s spending too much, those same Republicans?

    The reporter sputtered a bit and said, “No, well, er. . .”

    Dems on the attack.  Gotta love it.

  5. JeffcoBlue says:

    If you put all of this together and don’t get really angry deep down in your guts, there’s something fucking wrong with you. That’s pretty much all I can say.

    • MADCO says:

      Disorder and confusion everywhere

      No one seems to care

      Well I do

      Hey, who’s in charge here?

      It’s a jungle out there

      Poison in the very air we breathe

      Do you know what’s in the water that you drink?

      Well I do, and it’s amazing

      People think I’m crazy, ’cause I worry all the time

      If you paid attention, you’d be worried too

      You better pay attention

      Or this world we love so much might just kill you

      I could be wrong now, but I don’t think so

      It’s a jungle out there

      ~ R. Newman

  6. Albert J. Nock says:

    Nothing like a natural disaster to get you on your knees praying to government.

    There is not enough money in the world to stop the coming inferno.  You must allow these things to burn on a regular basis.

    Give Wayne a break; he is in the middle of a tragedy. He is probably in shock.

    • ProgressiveCowgirl says:

      And help to save lives, spread critical information, or simply disseminate messages of hope, healing, and recovery.

      As we justifiably praise the men and women who rise to the occasion, so do we justifiably criticize a man whose response to tragedy is to indulge his baser instincts by attempting to score partisan points as his own neighbors lose their homes and livelihoods.

    • Ralphie says:

      vs. Getting on your knees to suck Wayne Laugesen’s puny excuse for a dick.

      Why don’t you fill us in on the difference, Albert.

      Please show your work.

    • dukeco1 says:

      Nothing like a natural disaster to get you on your knees praying to government.

      “pray to government”? Really…? Who is it you are suggesting “prays” to government? Liberals? Democrats? Immigrants? Gays?…who?

      I sure am glad I don’t worship your God. He’s an asshole.

  7. harrydoby says:

    It neither collects taxes nor spends funds, remaining completely invisible and in hibernation, until a Republican needs something, or in an emergency demands government services NOW.

  8. MADCO says:


    VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Air Force Space Command deployed the only Department of Defense wildland fire fighting asset from Vandenberg at 2 p.m. June 27 in support of the wildland fire fighting efforts in Colorado Springs.

    The 18-member Vandenberg Hot Shot crew, along with two hot shots crew carrier vehicles, one superintendant support vehicle and one all terrain vehicle, loaded into the belly of a C-17 Globemaster from March Air Reserve Base at approximately 1 p.m. on June 27.

    “This is national support at its finest,” said Mark Farias, Vandenberg Fire Department chief. “Vandenberg Hot Shots, being the only DoD hot shots, bring a critical skill set to the fight. These guys will be on the front lines of this wildfire using their training regarding wildfires and urban interface to save lives and structures in the state of Colorado.”

    The hot shots will most likely be assigned to the Waldo Canyon Fire. As that fire rages in Colorado Springs, engulfing more than 15,517 acres, many military bases and residential areas are in danger and facing mandatory evacuation. This hot shots crew has been explicitly trained to save structures, not just to extinguish the flames.

    “When a building or community faces a wild fire danger we use structure triage,” said Jesse Hendricks, Vandenberg Hot Shots superintendent. “First we remove any fuel source, like trees or shrubbery, from around the home using hand tools. Once we’ve created an area clear of fuels, we actually burn a fire around the structure that will carry the initial fire away from the homes.”

    Vandenberg’s Hot Shots are going into this inferno mentally and physically prepared.

    “We all got into the mindset that this is going to be a nasty situation,” Hendricks said. “We understand fatigue will be a factor, so we are all hydrating and are trying to get as much sleep as we can before getting to Colorado. When we go into any wildfire we try to relate it to our ‘mental slides,’ meaning that we recall similar wildfires and pull from those lessons learned so that we will be more effective.”

    Vandenberg’s Fire Chief feels confident that this hot shot crew will prove to be a valuable asset to the containment of the Colorado wildfire.

    “Thousands of people and homes are threatened, but the most skilled DoD wildland fire fighters are being deployed. Our hot shots are difference makers, having saved this base numerous times, our surrounding communities and now Colorado Springs,” Farias said

    http://www.gazette.com/articles/charred-140903-waking-city.html#ixzz1z3aMQhuT

    • RenegadeGeophysicist says:

      I worked in Vandenberg last summer, it was hot, about 85 Farenheit, and humid, and the sea breeze was the only thing keeping you cool.  But in CO, it’s 100 degrees; don’t give me any of that ‘dry heat’ crap, it’s hot.  And the altitude. I truly hope that the Vandenberg Hot Shots help and stay safe, but I think this also shows the importance of more local response.  A Colorado based team would already be acclimated. It makes a big difference.

  9. Craig says:

    It’s the REpublicans who dramatically cut funding for FEMA during their control of government that resulted directly in the disaster that happened in New Orleans after the hurricane, causing thousands of deaths.  Frankly, the only reason they are complaining now is that the housing stock in most of the urban interface is high end housing that affects their freeloading Republicans who want the Federal Government to pay for their problems, but not anyone elses.  The reality is that without the Federal Government, this fire would have consumed thousands of homes by now.  The Colorado Springs Fire Department and El Paso County Sheriff’s Department have been decimated by their own budget cuts.  Essentially, these people have given an unfunded mandate to the Federal Government to protect their homes.  I say, let them burn.  Withdraw all Federal help now.  Let’s see how they feel about their libertarian government then.  Hey, you 34,000 who are evacuated, see what your Republican government has done for you now.  I have no sympathy.  My urban interface community has spend more than a million dollars or our private HOA fees getting ready for such a fire as this.  Sorry you didn’t, but you can kiss my ass right about now if you think I’m going to feel sorry for you or want the Federal Government to help you.  You should have thought about this before you elected all these assholes who now control the purse strings.  I’d say you got what you paid for, which was nothing.  Talk about unintended consequences, well, here they are.  I hope you like what you have wrought.  Because you deserve it.  And you want us to send our military to help you out.  You’ve got to be kidding.  This is not the function of the military.  Burn baby, burn.

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