Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fire and Ice by Robert Frost

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
--Robert Frost

I think that there has been plenty of commentary done on this poem. If you're interested in the Love/Hate Fire/Ice symbolism, I'm sure you can find some page online to explain it to you. I'm going to talk about something else.

We've been watching some of the coverage of the fires here in Southern California this week. It pretty much dominates the news shows, and there are some channels that show nothing else all day. For those of you that don't know, there are (at last count) 15 separate wildfires that have sprung up since Sunday morning. In an appallingly dry year, we have unseasonably high temperatures and single digit humidity. The Santa Ana winds kicked in this weekend, and all last week we were getting stern warnings from the news people to get the brush cleared, have an emergency plan, and be VERY careful about fire safety in the wilderness areas (If you don't know, the Santa Ana winds are when hot dry air from the Great Basin of Utah blows across the deserts of Nevada and down the canyons of Southern California. They're hot, dry, and strong--20-80 mph--and make wildfires spread like crazy).

Last night on the news, they said that at least one of the fires was caused by arson. I don't think that I have been so outraged in my entire life as when I heard that. Even if nobody dies in that particular fire, I think that the guy who did it should be charged with murder as well as anything else the DA can think of. The firefighters and equipment are spread far too thin already, and if they have to go contain another fire, it means that they can't be fighting the several that were caused by lightning or downed power lines. At least one person HAS died. At least one group of firefighters was overtaken by the flames and had to get into their aluminum foil tents and ride it out (EXTREMELY dangerous for them). Well over six hundred homes have burned -- many of them expensive, and one valued at seventeen million dollars for that house alone. I saw footage of a fire that had sprung up in the five minutes since the newscast began that had already consumed two mobile homes -- these people had NO warning! Even here in Torrance, where we're in relatively little danger from wildfires, the air quality is bad because of the falling ash (we're warned to spend as little time outside as possible).

It's hard for me to believe that in these circumstances, somebody would be so inconsiderate -- so mean -- so STUPID -- as to set a fire on purpose. It boggles my mind. I simply can't imagine what would make a person do that. Maybe the world is coming to an end after all.


  1. I know nothing of this particular fire, but the sad fact is that many forest fires are set by out of work fire fighters looking for a job.


  2. The New York Times says that that is a popular urban legend. There is certainly evidence that it's happened a few times, but that firefighters are not any more prone to light fires than any other part of the population. New York Times Article from 2002 and another one from 1904.

    In this case, there was already at least one fire going at the time, and they had to pull people away from it to take care of the arson one. Also, the conditions this year were so bad that everyone was certain that there WOULD be fires, so there was no worry about work. California also has a very agressive campaign of controlled burns and brush clearing that keeps the firefighters busy. They really don't need to set fires to get work around here.