Some of you already know about the wildfires in Oklahoma. One fire has consumed 94 square miles and another burned through 78 square miles. There are currently 18 fires burning. Temperatures before adding in the heat of the fires exceed 105ºF, and Saturday broke heat records with 117ºF.
Imagine the firefighters - underpaid, understaffed due to budget cuts - out there risking their lives and health to battle these fires - some of which were started by arsonists.
Oklahoma is a red, red, red state. Our state and local budgets reflect that very strongly with steep budget cuts to fire, police, and education and pay raises to the legislators. The lines at Chick-fil-a on the first (and mind, the temps that day exceeded 105ºF and there was precious little wind to alleviate the heat) were so long it required police traffic control - costing the city extra money. Did they care? Of course not, they were coming out to suppress the civil rights of fellow American citizens - because Oklahoma is a red, red, red state. We have no pockets of blue, like Texas does. It's all red.
Oklahomans were among the most vituperative towards the victims of Katrina and Rita, heavy on the victim-bashing and quick to demand "worthiness" before dispensing aid. For the record, not all Oklahomans were like this, only the vocal ones. A great many Okies collected goods and went down to help with the rescue and more importantly, the clean-up afterwards, and quite a few opened their homes to strangers. If your only sources of information were the media, the preachers, and the internet, you'd think Okies did nothing but spit on the victims and corral them into internment camps.
So you'd think the attitude of Oklahomans during these fires would be, "Let 'em burn!"
When the first of the season's wildfires started, a reporter was talking to the fire chief about the fire. The chief mentioned, in passing, as if it were something they just had to deal with, that the budget cute precluded them being able to buy gatorade or even water to rehydrate the fire fighters, then went into the extent of the fire, what the fighters were doing, the prediction of where the fire would go and if any homes would be affected, and how long until the fire was under control. Before the interview was over, a pick-up pulled up with the back loaded with cases of gatorade and water. By the end of the newscast, they were able to report that not only did this group of firefighters have enough gatorade and water, but that cases were appearing, left anonymously, at fire stations all across the state.
That was the Oklahoma that showed itself during the Murrah Bombing. Emergency workers merely need to mention in passing a need and within minutes, there were people arriving to fill that need.
The wildfires in Slaughterville, Noble, Norman, Luther, Drumright, Tom Steed Reservoir, and more have burned some of the meanness that was building up in Oklahoma.
We aren't back to the sane pre-Murrah days yet. We may never get there, but there's sanity showing again.
I spent a good portion of the weekend packing boxes of essentials for the evacuees, the things they inevitably forgot as they evacuated in the face of the rapid fires: shampoo, soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, hairbrushes and combs, deodorant, wash clothes, and towels. Towels. They've evidently never heard of Towel Day.
We added coupons for free meals from area restaurants. Pizza places delivered huge stacks of pizzas to the designated shelters. Youth groups hauled huge grills out and grilled up burgers and hot dogs. Food was not an issue. Everyone had enough to eat -those who were capable of eating, that is.
So many people huddled around newsfeeds, watching as their homes and their neighbor's homes burned to ash. Unlike an ordinary house fire that leaves things behind to salvage and to clean and restore, wildfires are hot. So hot that once they consume a house, if it was built of brick or stone, all that was left were the bricks and stones - friable and brittle, cracked and in some cases, exploded by the intense heat. Metal is slagged. Everything else is ash.
The wind is carrying ash clouds and mingling ash with the smoke. Our hearts beat in time with the chinooks and news copters flying low over us, dripping water from the giant buckets they've been dipping in Stanley Draper and Thunderbird and other area lakes. The roads fill with the deep vibration of tractors coming to bulldoze fallen trees out of the roadways and they are cheered on by people who know, if the tractors can get through, they might be able to go home soon.
There's talk of collecting vials of ash as a remembrance of what they once had.
The kids are all over the place, some are clinging to their parents, some are running wild and acting out, others are huddling far away from everyone. I mention the teddy bears we collect for the highway patrol to give to children involved in traffic stops and accidents and someone else hears it and within the hour, we have teddy bears coming in, along with plushie bunnies, and plastic horses and cows.
I call the bears the underbears, because they've been driven from their homes by the fires, too, and need someone to comfort them and give them new forever homes. The kids really take to the bears.
Instead of packing evacuee boxes, I ended up giving away the toys. More of the kids are relaxing and playing. The horses are herding the cows, and the bunnies and the bears are cuddling. I take the opportunity to recite one of my favorite poets and some of the kids are delighted by Arthur Guiterman's poems. I give them Safety First (The Deer don't Dine/ when a Wolf's about/ and the porcupine/ sticks his quill-points out...) and Strictly Germ-Proof about the Bunny and the Baby and the Prophylactic Pup drinking out of their Hygienic Cups. The rhythm of Strictly Germ-Proof seems to appeal to them. I'm sure the parents will hate me later, but hey, it's Arthur Guiterman!
Itzl and Xoco played their parts well, alerting whenever sirens were coming, long before others could hear them, so we had a heads up. Xoco refused to leave the safety of the pouch carrier, but Itzl wasn't above hamming things up a bit. He takes his duties to alert and protect people very seriously.
Itzl ready to lead the charge
Hurry up, people, I'm waiting!
Alright, if you aren't coming, I'll just take 'er out myself:
There were three diaries in the Practical Survivalism and Sustainable Living Group that offer helpful information:
Before Disaster Strikes, Inventory Your Stuff - Melanie in IA