Burning Injustice: Why the California Wildfires Are a Class Crisis

Yves here. This story on wildfires and the societal implications of climate change has some information that was new to me, such at the role of insurers in privatizing fire fighting.

By Ben Tippet, who is studying for a MPhil/PhD at the University of Greenwich. His thesis researches the determinants of wealth concentration, with a particular focus on the role class, financialisation and government fiscal policy play in increasing inequality. His first book Split: Class Divides Uncovered, provides an introduction to capital and labour in the 21st century. Originally published at openDemocracy

A wildfire in the hills of California. Over 10,000 acres of land have been devastated by the fires|PA Images

Fifty four degrees centigrade is the highest temperature ever reliably recorded on earth. Registered in California’s Death Valley only two months ago, it signalled what was to come. The next day fires erupted in the north of the state that eventually snowballed into the largest single fire in its history. Among the shocking scenes of red skies and destroyed homes, we might forget that it was only as little as two years ago that the last fire season records in California were broken. The smoke from those flames clouded the skies as far away as New York City. Yet, the vision it presented of our future could not have been clearer.

Whether it is the flames of the wet Amazon or the fires of the frozen Arctic, wildfires have become the canary in the gold mine. The urgency of a fire is a far cry from the dry scientific language of global warming. They represent everything that is terrifying about climate change. Fire rips through the natural and physical world, leaving behind a blackened and uninhabitable landscape, like watching the next century play out on fast forward. All that is left is a wasteland, showing us, in the words of T.S. Elliot’s poem, “fear in a handful of dust”.

Of the 295,000 people that were evacuated in the 2018 California inferno, two names in particular hit the news. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West were forced to abandon their $60 million mansion in the serene gated community just outside of Los Angeles, known as the Hidden Hills. The Hills are home to several Hollywood stars and celebrities, including Kylie Jenner (the world’s youngest billionaire), Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears.

When the fire finally started to die down, the couple found themselves having to put out the flames of their own publicity crisis. Reports started to enfold that the couple had hired a private fire team to protect their mansion, a decision they were publicly burned for as critics raged that they should not be able to pay for protection. In an attempt to stem the crisis, Kim Kardashian appeared on ‘The Ellen Show’ to present a $100,000 donation to a firefighter and his wife who had lost their homes in the fire, in a declaration of their devotion to the public Californian firefighting service.

Whether Kim and Kanye were wrong for going private is not really the issue here. But it does raise the question – why couldn’t they rely on the public fire service to protect their home? In answering this question, we will see that the climate crisis is a class crisis. As the world warms and becomes ever increasingly hostile to human life, class divides will be sharpened. This is not inevitable. But there are many features of the 2018 Californian wildfires that show the path we are on, an allegory for a century which will be defined by its relationship to the elements.

Fire Services Run by Insurers

During the fires, the Californian fire service was stretched well beyond capacity, having to call in backup from seventeen other states. This was in part due to the gutting of the public service in the era of privatisation. Starting in the 1980s, the US began to promote more and more private actors in the fire industry, under the neoliberal idea that going private would improve efficiency. By 2018, the National Wildfire Suppression Association – the main lobby group representing over 250 private fire-fighting companies – claimed that 40% of the country’s fire service has been privatised.

If there was one company that would be responsible for pioneering the private fire service it would be the American Insurance Group (AIG) – the world’s largest insurance company. In 2005, the AIG kickstarted the business model of getting rich people to pay a massive premium in exchange for a bespoke team. According to the group’s press release, the ‘Wildfire Defence Service’ serves thousands of homes across California and has been taken up by nearly half of the Forbes 400 richest Americans. That AIG was behind these developments is telling. Alongside its bespoke service, the company was also developing a financial product that would help to ultimately set the global economy on fire.

Insurance companies may sound like boring places of little importance, but they played a major part in bringing about the 2008 financial crisis. In the lead up to the crisis, AIG was making billions from reckless financial speculation. When things turned sour, AIG had to turn to the US government for a bailout, with taxpayers forking out $182.3 billion of public money to save the insurance giant. Many of the dodgy deals that led to AIG’s problems trace back to a division in their London office, run by a man called Joseph Cassano, or as the papers call him, “the man who crashed the world”. Despite losing billions, he left AIG without being held to account for his actions and with a massive financial payout: $280 million in cash and an additional $34 million in bonuses.

The story of the Californian wildfires is not just the usual story of privilege paying for protection. To fill the void left by 40 years of privatisation, the government had to rely on its bulging prison population to put out the flames. To this day prisoners make up a vast chunk of the Californian fire service and these prisoners are not just a token part of the force – nearly 40% of Californian firefighters are inmates. That is over 4,000 people. For their services, they are paid a token $1 an hour; receive no benefits; and if they die on the job, their families are given no compensation. Employing prisoners for barely a wage saves the US government $100 million a year.

California is infamous for its dramatically oversized and inflated prison population, having grown by 750% since the mid-1970s. According to academic Ruth Wilson Gilmore, the cause of this growth has nothing to do with rising crime rates, which actually fell during this period. The prison population increased because the government built new prisons, in an incarceration construction frenzy that developers proudly called “the biggest in the history of the world”.

The new prisons, paid for largely out of public debt which was never intended to be repaid, provided a new meaning for a state bureaucracy that was under the threat of privatisation. We can see the legacy of this today: California spends six times the amount to put a person behind bars than it does to put them through school. There are now more women in prison in California alone than there were in the United States as a whole in 1970.

From flooding to rising sea levels, fires are not the only ecological threat facing us and science tells us that the damaging effects of climate change will intensify over the coming years. How we respond to these crises will depend on the economic and political institutions that now govern us. What we are witnessing in California is a particularly dystopian vision of the relationship between climate change and class. There, a millionaire class is protected for a steep fee by a multinational corporation that crashed the global economy but was bailed out regardless by taxpayers – who, in turn, have to rely on crumbling state protection. Meanwhile, growing numbers of the poor are locked up and risk their lives fighting the problem for just $1 an hour.

Who Is Responsible?

If there was one year that the Global North woke up to the scale of the environmental crisis, it was 1988. Time magazine enshrined the “Endangered Earth” as their person of the year; the UN set up the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); and NASA Scientist James Hansen told the US Congress that they were 99% sure that global heating was being caused by humans.

Yet, more than three decades on, despite thousands of scientific studies, countless programs, protests, conferences, and annual meetings with leaders from across the globe, the achievements look bleak. As the writer David Wallace Wells argues, we have emitted more carbon since 1988 than in all the centuries and millennia before it. As he writes, “we have now engineered as much ruin knowingly as we ever managed in ignorance”.

Who is responsible for these emissions? The West? Adults? The US? China? The capitalist class? In 2017, a widely cited report by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) called the Carbon Majors Reportwas published, found that between 1988 and 2015, 71% of global emissions have been caused by just 100 fossil fuel companies.

The concentration of power in such a tiny group of organisations shows the clear class divide when it comes to who is actively creating this crisis. The future of the world rests in the hands of the tiny number of elite, privileged, predominantly male managers who run these organisations. What is worrying is that we can safely assume those who make it to the top of a major fossil fuel company care a lot about the survival of their company and much less about the survival of the ecological system. The solution to tackling ecological breakdown is therefore as much about tackling this concentration of power as about technological fixes.

You might be thinking – but surely these companies produce the things we all need to live and survive? It is not really fair to say that responsibility lies with those who produce the energy, when it is us – the consumers – who are really driving demand.  Shifting responsibility onto consumers is a policy and ethic that we understand well when it comes to climate change. In response to ecological destruction, we have focused a lot on changing the small things: banning plastic bags and straws, recycling, eating less meat, flying less. While individual action is important, it is pointless without a wider political program of transformative change.

Some have argued that placing responsibility for the crisis on corporations lets consumers off the hook, but there are several issues with this claim. Firstly, we do not all consume equally. The highest earning 10% of the global population are responsible for half of consumption emissions. If this 10% reduced their consumption to the level of just the average European, global emissions would drop by 30%. When it comes to responsibility – some consumers are more accountable than others.

Climate Strikes

If 1988 was the year that the world woke up to the climate crisis, then 2019 was when the coffee kicked in. On 20 September that year, millions of people in hundreds of countries across the world walked out of schools and workplaces in the largest mass protest against climate change in history. This global climate strike was the latest in the international youth movement calling for urgent and lasting action to radically decarbonise the economy. In London, where over 300,000 people marched through the streets, one of the groups that addressed the crowd that day was a collective of indigenous, black, brown and diaspora activists from countries in the Global South called Wretched of the Earth. They started their rallying cry with the following words:

You’ve all heard that “our house is on fire”. But for many of us, our house has been on fire for over 500 years. And it did not set itself on fire. We did not get here by a sequence of small missteps and mistakes. We were thrust here by powerful forces that drove the unequal distribution of resources and the rigged structure of our societies. The economic system that dominates us was brought about by colonial projects whose sole purpose is the pursuit of domination and profit.

The global ecological crisis did not come from nowhere – it is the result of a long history of colonial expansion and capitalist exploitation. The inequalities that started 500 years ago live on today. The rich, industrialised countries in the Global North are, according to one estimate, responsible for emitting around 70% of historical global emissions – but will be last to suffer.

It is poor countries that historically have contributed very little to the crisis – sub-Saharan Africa, the Pacific Islands, Bangladesh, India and others in the Global South – that will be most affected. In part this is due to a cruel twist of fate, that the poorest countries are situated in the hottest and most exposed parts of the world. But their exposure is not just the result of a natural coincidence. The legacy of colonialism and the inequalities it produced have left the rich countries with more technology, resources and wealth to adapt to the changing world. They can, just like Kanye West and Kim Khardashian, pay for protection (albeit only up to a point).

The words of the Wretched of the Earth reminds us that these inequalities cannot be understood as a natural disaster. They are man-made and relate to the deep racial and class-based inequalities that are legacies of colonisation. The fact that it is predominantly the most marginalised, poorest, people of colour who have been most affected by this crisis goes a long way to answering why so little action has been taken. In the words of Swedish teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg, “the suffering of the many pays for the luxury of the few”.

The Sinking Ship

When it comes to a problem as big and overwhelming as climate change, breaking the problem down into digestible chunks can be helpful. All of the top chief executives and board members of the 100 companies would all be able to fit into a boat the size of the Titanic – a tiny group of people, with the power to transform the history of humanity. It’s a point that has been emphasised by climate activists by a slogan commonly seen at demonstrations: “The world isn’t dying. It is being killed. And the people killing it have names and addresses”.

In the blockbuster film, as the Titanic went down and the water started to rise, the third-class passengers were kept locked down in the hull while the first and second-class passengers took first dibs in the lifeboat. As ecological breakdown becomes impossible to ignore, we see an increasing dilemma played out in our politics as to how to tackle the issue. There is a fear that we are heading down the Californian way – the entrenching of class inequality along every line as the rich scramble to protect their worth. If we are to avoid this, we must understand that the climate crisis arises from the same system that produces our class system. In order to break out of the lower cabins and stop the ship from sinking, the concentrated power of the rich needs to be tackled.

As C.S. Lewis, the author of ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’, once said, “Man’s power over Nature, turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument.” From climate change to class inequality, the destruction of the world is tied up with our destruction of each other.

This article is an edited extract from ‘Split: Class Divides Uncovered’published on Pluto Books.

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  1. Clem

    “Registered in California’s Death Valley only two months ago, it signalled what was to come. The next day fires erupted in the north of the state.”

    This clown should get his butt off the British Isles and learn that California has multiple weather patterns, ocean currents, ecotones, landforms and temperature gradients. Death Valley is always the hottest place and it has nothing to do with Northern California.

    Other than that, it’s a good article and brings up important issues re AIG. There’s nothing wrong with elites hiring private firemen, as long as the taxpayer funded services are doing their job locally and have adequate resources.

    But then the author takes on Western Civilization and embarks on a commentary about everything that has happened in the last millenia. Hope his thesis has footnotes.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      The author was noting that as the always-hottest place in California gets even hotter than it used to be, so the always not-as-hot parts of California get even hotter than they used to be. They will still be cooler than Death Valley, but they will get hotter than they used to be.

      That’s what the author was saying with regard to Death Valley and the rest of California. Or am I wrong?

      1. Sue inSoCal

        Nah, you’re not wrong. The entire planet is heating up. Temperatures are rising everywhere, to our detriment. The low desert in Ca seems able to take it – so far. Back to private/public firefighting. Much of me says “so what else is new” including bailed out robber barons, AIG. I wonder what their firefighters’ training is and what they’re paid. Hmm… In the meantime, Ca prisons pay $2/day to non-violent offenders to fight fires instead of releasing them. Is this a class issue?

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Thank you for the kind words of support.

          If I am not wrong in what the author of the article meant to write and convey by leading off with the hottest ever temp-reading in Death Valley, then Clem’s taking of offense is entirely mis-takinged. The highest-ever temperature in Death Valley is an example of highest-ever whatevers of whatever sort in many whatever places.

          We need some new language to capture some of the nuances of the oh-so-technical and yet oh-so-real differences between “heat” and “temperature”. Temperature is a visible-ized measurement of the average speed of atomolecular motion of all the atomolecules-in-energy-driven motion in the sample of whatever it is that is having its temperature taken. Heat is the aMOUNT of ENergy contained by the motion of all the atomolecules in the sample.

          A pound of ice at 32 degrees is the same temperature as a pound of water at 32 degrees.
          But a massive amount of “heat of fusion” had to be dumped into the ice at 32 degrees to get it to melt down into water still at 32 degrees. The water is not “hotter” than the ice if both are at 32 degrees. But the water does contain more heat-of-atomolecular-motion than the ice contains, even when both are at 32 degrees. So the water is more heat-rich. It contains more heat energy. We need a new word for this. I suggest the word ” heaty”. That word was immediately tagged as mis-spelled or something. It has a red line under it. But that is only because it is not a real word yet. If enough millions of people decide that “heaty” describes a real condition and therefor deserves to be a real word, perhaps they can all make it one by using it enough millions or billions of times.

          This reality is already intuitively recognized and referenced in sayings like: ” It’s not the heat, its the humidity”. The humid air is heatier than dry air at the same temperature.

          If we could advance the language to the point where some one could say . . . ” man, its heaty out” and have everyone know exactly what is meant, we will have made an advance in sharpening the language as a tool for reality-expression.

    2. Code Name D

      Really? That’s your take away. A article about the sorry state about privatized firefighting in California, and your beef is about a temperature reading in Death Valley?

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        It’s not a real beef. Its a cardboard-replica velcro-decoy beef. The intent was diversionary.

        Clem should buy coastal land in Louisiana. If there is no such thing as global warming, that means that there will be no such thing as sea level rising. And land around Morgan City will be worth a fortune when the Mississippi finds its now Route to the Sea through the Achafalaya River.

    3. Phacops

      WTF! The comment about elites and publicly funded services is deliberately ignorant and contains within that simple sentence a gish-gallop of lies. As has been noted here and elsewhere, the increased privatization of public services has led to elites not only withdrawing support for public investment, but to actively work against it, and in some cases, going out of their way to demonstrate that government does not work, as with the Flint water poisonings being a good example.

      1. Clem

        Rephrasing, “The rich can do whatever they want with their ill gotten gains as long as we middle class people get what we have paid for with our taxes.”

        Now is a good time to point out the austerity and defunding of obligatory–as in multiple items on your property tax bill–funded fire services in wildfire California, before the rage cools. Don’t forget the 14 fire fighting helicopters paid for by Oregonians that are doing a lot of good in Afghanistan, for example.

    4. Tim

      Actually, the high pressure systems east of the Cascades, Sierras, San Bernadinos, etc. that at the early part of the fall create the high temperatures in the eastern deserts are what create the “Santa Ana” wind phenomenon that create the extreme hot, dry high wind environment which drove the record setting wildfires from Portland to San Diego.

      So the author is more right than wrong with their attempt at a riveting opening.

  2. MartyH

    Isn’t this reducable to a generic story about class? As in, “Because The Rich can afford to hire or buy X and public sources of X are so much less effective …”? As in, “The Billionaire Family Y has their private jet fly them to their mega-yacht to avoid the pandemic”? As in “Gazillionaire Z, accompanied by his Blackwater Security Detail visited his plant in Bangladesh”? Yes, there’s a “class war/problem” inherent in current political economics.

  3. savedbyirony

    “There are now more women in prison in California alone than there were in the United States as a whole in 1970.” !!! That is amazing and tragic and disgusting knowing what has happened to wages, social services, the increase in for profit prisons and the increase in inequality over the last fifty years. Why does the “women’s rights movement” and present day feminists not talk about this? We have not gotten tough on crime.TPTB have just become better and better and monetizing it; both white collar and other.

    1. troublemecca

      It’s darker than just prisons. Our habits, grievances, and personalities are literally a market. Imagine a prison conglomerate employing social-media/engineering to increase its rate of admissions, by turning the dial-of-influence toward risk-taking behavior. Sounds illegal, but is it feasible? Yes. Is it deniable? Plausibly. Macabre example; but technology has enabled the quantification of basic human interaction, and subsumed it with a market based value. Hence, for-profit prisons: as dissociated from their social value, as their stock price is from reality.

      1. savedbyirony

        “Imagine a prison comglomerate employing social media/engineering….” I recall reading thru the recent years reports of both judges being paid to see that cells were filled and cities closing public schools while opening prisons in direct proportion to each other.

        Also telling how the discipline in some charter schools mirrors the policing on inner city streets.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          I have read that some of those Sadistic Discipline charter schools were founded by Black Entrepreneuers. Someone should do a study on that by the percentages.

    2. Clem

      There is little exclusion and mysogyny in Hispanic gangs that recruit equally among the sexes. That’s what’s changed, plus the immigrant driven population increase of California’s population: 20 million in 1970, nearly 40 million now. !Bienvenidos!

      Don’t forget to thank Joe Biden and his crime bill, plus Reagan and Bush Sr.’s war on drugs.

  4. Daniel Raphael

    Yes, the class divide is inevitable–in fact, it’s been with us right along. It isn’t obvious to all, because there’s a huge industry paid to obscure, dilute, divert, and distract from this divide. Enough said.

  5. Skip Intro

    This is also the model for policing, of course. Nothing protects like good, old-fashioned mercenaries. Ask Machiavelli

  6. sharonsj

    Because I read everything, I’ve known for a very long time that privatization is a bad idea for the 99%. As usual, the national media says nothing about this because the national media is owned by a handful of corporations that are no longer interested in providing news. There is no solution to anything unless a hefty percentage of average people rise up and protest but I don’t see that happening as long as we have the sustained ignorance of the American public.

  7. juno mas

    This article covers a lot of ground. Some of it is semi-hypberbolic.

    I’ve commented on the prison fire fighter issue before. Yes, the inmates are underpaid, placed in a dangerous setting with lingering health consequences. They are NOT 40% of the Californian firefighters. Most of the firefighters on the current mega-fires belong to local city/county fire departments with expensive equipment for protecting structures. There are over 15,000 local, state, and federal firefighters attempting to contain these fires. This year there are only 1800 inmate firefighters; there is training and housing capability for as many as 3800.

    While temperature is a good proxy for fire danger in California, it is wind driven fire that causes the massive destruction we are seeing this year. Fire specialists know that the only way to contain wind driven fire is RAIN; not fire fighters.

    While inmate firefighters do backbreaking, dangerous work in the hilly front line with hand tools, there are many more professionally trained firefighters working to protect structures—both with little success when climate change has made the task impossible to control and homes (on narrow lanes) are placed adjacent to wildlands.

    PS. Private fire fighters with gel and foam fire suppression materials have been used by deca-million dollar homeowners for decades.

    1. juno mas

      Reported today, California state fire officials are investigating a group of private fire fighters for using “backfire” techniques to protect a home. Setting a ‘backfire’ is not an allowable structure protection technique for private firefighters.

    2. John Wright

      I believe the article’s emphasis on the private firefighters for the wealthy is misplaced.

      I am unaware of any private firefighting activity in the burned down wealthy neighborhoods in Santa Rosa,CA in the October 9, 2017 massive wildfire (3 years ago today).

      The overwhelming nature of these fires make firefighting difficult or impossible as the city fire departments are designed to handle a few fires simultaneously, not the massive numbers of homes burning simultaneously.

      For example, Santa Rosa, CA (https://srcity.org/DocumentCenter/View/3127/Fire-Department-Organizational-Chart-PDF) has 10 fire stations for a population of 178K.

      In the Oct 2017 fire, 1500 Santa Rosa homes burned down, many within a 6 hour period, this is 150 homes burning per fire station..

      The Santa Rosa Fire Department, itself, had a newly constructed station burn down and former station burn down.

  8. Alex Cox

    The author writes that the managers of global warming are “predominantly male”. Probably so, but so what? Are we to believe that women in managerial positions are any more sane or humane than men? If we put Margaret Thatcher or Condaleeza Rice or Hilary Clinton in charge of fossil fuel production, would things improve?

    1. John Wright

      The article also has “71% of global emissions have been caused by just 100 fossil fuel companies”

      This is a gross oversimplication as it is the direct burning or indirect burning (via manufactured goods/food) of the fossil fuels by consumers and businesses that cause the emissions.

      As one retired oil company executive told me, “we would not produce stuff that people refused to buy”.

      1. wilroncanada

        John: Let me correct.
        We would not produce stuff if we, through our enormous control of communications, cannot convince people to buy, or if, through our control of government, we cannot force people to buy.
        There, you have it.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        I know of one case where oil executives co-conspired to destroy lower-oil alternatives in order to drive people into a corner of “only oil company stuff left to buy”. And that was the 3-way conspiracy, as proved in courts of law, between Firestone Tire and Rubber, Standard Oil of New Jersey, and General Motors to buy and destroy municipal trolley and streetcar and surface-level “subway” systems all over America, so as to create a default-vacuum-market for cars, buses, tires and oil.


        Perhaps this retired oil executive hoped you either didn’t know or didn’t remember this.

  9. Tom Bradford

    California is infamous for its dramatically oversized and inflated prison population…… According to academic Ruth Wilson Gilmore, the cause of this growth has nothing to do with rising crime rates, which actually fell during this period.

    It is, of course, possible that the fall in crime rates is due in part to the removal of criminals from the streets and in part to the deterrent effect of increased likelihood of incarceration.

    I’m not saying that is the case, or that increasing the likelihood of incarceration as a deterrent is the best way of lowering crime rates, but I can’t see how increased incarceration rates, unjustified or not, has anything to do with global warming or the surge of wildfires in California. The inclusion of this irrelevant ‘fact’ however, together with the stone-throwing at the ultra-rich for their private fire-fighting measures – unfair as they might be – is insignificant as against the big picture and to me reduces the whole article to a rant against privilege hung on tjhe wildfires as an excuse for it.

    1. JBird4049

      Let’s connect some facts because it is all connected.

      The passage of Prop 13 which reduced property taxes and the massive increase in both prisons and prisoners caused by the Three Strikes Law and other sentencing improvements just might, possibly, maybe have reduced funding for other services. The state government also stopped income sharing for the local governments as well IIRC a decade back.

      All this reduced the available funding both state and municipal forcing the government to make cuts somewhere including emergency services and when the pandemic was allowed to spread among the prisoners because of the transfer of sick prisoners from prison to prison preventing them from working.

      Then one adds that global warming, climate collapse, decreases in government funding, and the cutbacks in services as well as the increase in governmental dysfunction are encouraged by the fossil fuel industry, and the financial services industry as well as wealthy individuals that make fantastic profit from this.

      Further, there has been for decades very successful lobbying for building more prisons, increasing prison incarceration, and the use of the more expensive private prisons. There is a reason why the union for the California prison guards is the most powerful in the state and has been for over thirty years.

      (Also, I do not think that having 40% of the state government’s fire fighters be effectively unpaid slave labor is a good thing.)

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      I have read that falling crime rates are in part due to the removal of lead from gasoline. As generations of children grew up without brain damage due to a lack of poisonous lead all over the entire environment, they began failing to commit crimes at the same rates as their predecessors.

      The prisondustrial – legal enforcement complex tried to make up for falling crime rates by inventing new crimes and expanding sentences for existing one, including such recruit-more-prisoners measures as Three-Strikes-and-You’re-Out laws in California.

      The prison guards union may be another fascist union in need of extermination along with the fascist police unions. Its existence is a major obstacle to downsizing-rightsizing rates of artificially-manufactured incarceration.

  10. Crazy Horse

    If you are rich enough you can even stop a wildfire in its tracks!

    Fifteen years ago an intense fire (called the Green Knolls Fire) exploded in the foothills just outside of the Crescent H subdivision near Jackson Wyoming. The area is populated with 20-30 million dollar trophy homes on 30 acre private parcels. I happened to be building a custom boat for the owner of three such properties. According to him he called up Dick Cheney and reminded him who had paid the campaign bills during his rise to prominence. True or not, within 24 hours every fire bomber within the Western United States landed at the Jackson airport along with every hotshot fire crew within a thousand miles. The fire stopped about 100 feet from the front door of one of my employer’s estates. They litterally bombed to death a ten thousand acre fire crowning in heavy timber, and all it took was the entire fire resources of every state in the West.

    I guess some of us are just more equal than others—.

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