South Africa: Landgrabs and Scorched Earth

A reader sent a link to this article about an example of landgrabbing occurring in South Africa, from the Platinum Weekly Newspaper – The Scorched Earth Policy of Landgrabbing.

In Northam, a group of approximately 30 men and women who don’t want to wait their turn, decided to lay claim to a farm in Koedoesdoorn, about 1 kilometre outside of Northam on Sunday 5 August. They planted their flags and demarcated the land they wanted. They also set fire to the surrounds.

Soon the fire engulfed everything in its path. The wicked August winds helped the fire, which was more than two stories high at some places to jump the fence to two neighbouring farms, farm Meerkat and portion 17 of farm De Put. Water pipes and electric cables leading to these farms were destroyed in the process.

The community who immediately came to help fight the fire, were stunned to find illegal landgrabbers on the piece of land. They were met with mockery and sarcasm. Some of the landgrabbers went out of their way to provoke community members, cursing, shouting and showing signs as they were trying to prevent a catastrophy.

Having a lot to deal with, the community members did not have time to respond to the landgrabbers. They just did what they came to do… trying to stop the fire from spreading. They were able to save two farm houses from burning to the ground.

However, the game and other farm animals on the three farms were not so fortunate. Over 500 hectares were laid to waste leaving a gloomy picture of dead animals among the ashes. Most of the burnt animal carcasses were found at the edges of the high game fences where they unsuccessfully tried to escape.

The few animals that somehow managed to live through this fiery ordeal are now left without any food or water. The water of all the different small natural dams dried up and the farmers would now have to cart water and fodder to the few surviving animals.

Seven suspects were arrested by the police, led by lieutenant colonel Ngoepe.
South African farmers face a dark, depressing and uncertain future.

Click here to read the whole story at Platinum Weekly.

Amateur Radio Emergency Service Volunteers Assist in California Fire Response

From the ARRL,

[UPDATED 2018-08-08 @ 1210 UTC] Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) volunteers have pitched in to assist where needed to provide or support communication as catastrophic wildfires have struck California. Volunteers from multiple ARRL Sections in the state have stepped up to help, as some fires remain out of control. The fires have claimed several lives, destroyed more than 1,000 homes, and forced countless residents to evacuate, including radio amateurs. ARRL Sacramento Valley Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC) Greg Kruckewitt, KG6SJT, said this week that things have calmed somewhat compared to the past couple of weeks, with American Red Cross shelter communicators stepping down after 10 days of support. Initially, there were four shelters in Redding. On August 5, the Shasta-Tehama ARES team was able to take its communications trailer to Trinity County to support a shelter in Weaverville opened for Carr Fire evacuees, he said.

“This relieved the Sacramento County ARES volunteers who had been up there for several days,” Kruckewitt said. “For mutual assistance to Weaverville, it is a 4.5- to 5.5-hour drive for the Sacramento Valley Section people who helped out. Communications at the shelter have been important, as power and cell phone coverage is often spotty, with power going off for hours at a time.” All ARES activations for the Carr Fire ended the evening of August 7.

CalFire reports that the Carr Fire in Shasta and Trinity counties covers more than 167,000 acres and is 47% contained. Evacuations and road closures are in effect. At one point, more than a dozen ARES volunteers from Shasta, Sacramento, Butte, Placer, and El Dorado counties were working at shelters opened in the wake of the Carr Fire.

“Sacramento Valley ARES member Michael Joseph, KK6ZGB, is the liaison at the Red Cross Gold County Region Disaster Operations Center (DOC) in Sacramento,” he noted, adding that Joseph has been in the DOC since the fire started. “When the fire in Sonora started, we scrambled to get some ARES members to that location to see what communications the shelter needs.”

Kruckewitt said Winlink continues to be the go-to mode, as fire has damaged several repeaters and no repeater path exists to the Gold County Region of the Red Cross in Sacramento.

“One difficulty we ran into this weekend was that the Red Cross needed [ARES Emergency Coordinator and SEC] contact information for various counties that also are experiencing fires and having to open shelters,” he said. Completing that task involved lots of phone calls. “We encourage all ARES members to get to know their neighboring ARES groups and…check into their nets.”

Kruckewitt told ARRL that demand for ARES communicators is rising as the fires continue to grow…

 

President Trump Pardons Hammonds

From Redoubt News, PARDON for Dwight and Steven Hammond.

Shocking The Conscience: The Hammond Story

Today, President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Grants of Clemency (Full Pardons) for Dwight Lincoln Hammond, Jr., and his son, Steven Hammond.  The Hammonds are multi-generation cattle ranchers in Oregon imprisoned in connection with a fire that leaked onto a small portion of neighboring public grazing land.  The evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds’ responsibility for the fire was conflicting, and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges.

At the Hammonds’ original sentencing, the judge noted that they are respected in the community and that imposing the mandatory minimum, 5-year prison sentence would “shock the conscience” and be “grossly disproportionate to the severity” of their conduct.  As a result, the judge imposed significantly lesser sentences.  The previous administration, however, filed an overzealous appeal that resulted in the Hammonds being sentenced to five years in prison.  This was unjust.

Dwight Hammond is now 76 years old and has served approximately three years in prison.  Steven Hammond is 49 and has served approximately four years in prison.  They have also paid $400,000 to the United States to settle a related civil suit.  The Hammonds are devoted family men, respected contributors to their local community, and have widespread support from their neighbors, local law enforcement, and farmers and ranchers across the West.  Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.

For a history of the harassment endured by the Hammonds, see this article at The Conservative Treehouse.

Prosser Montecito Fire, June 27, 2018

A fire that started near Montecito Estates in SW Prosser, WA has burned up the Horse Heaven Hills and into the wheat fields to the south. Early on authorities evacuated housing on the hillsides to the west of Montecito Estates. After a wind change, the fire headed back east and the Painted Hills area was evacuated. There is a Red Cross Shelter open at Housel Middle School for evacuees. More than 1,500 acres have burned as of 11:30 pm on the 27th. Fire fighting assets continue to arrive.

Update 1: As of approximately 12:15 am, June 28th, the fire is 40% contained. Officials believe between 1,500 and 2,000 acres have burned. Crews hope to achieve  100% containment by Thursday evening, the 28th.

Update 2: As of 6:00 am, June 28th, the fire is 80-90% contained and evacuation orders have been lifted.

Looking down at burn on top of Horse Heaven Hills. The fire burned into wheat fields. Date: 6/28/18 Photo Courtesy of Jim Willard

TACDA: The Real Risks of Fire

From The American Civil Defense Association’s blog,

firemen at housefire

Fire Safety and Survival

There are over 360,000 house fires in the United States every year with a substantial number of injuries and deaths. Eighty percent of the deaths and injuries occur in residential structures, with most of those fatalities occurring while those people are asleep. We can reduce the risk of death or injuries by fire through understanding how and where fires start and how to prevent the fires and ensure prompt notification if a fire occurs.

Studies of fires during emergency situations show a substantial increased risk because of the frequency and severity of fires when individuals and families are using cooking and heating methods that are less familiar and more hazardous than they normally use. The principles and methods for preventing fires and protecting ourselves apply both in our everyday lives and emergency situations.

Asphyxiation, or lack of oxygen, causes most fatalities in fires…

The most important pieces of fire equipment for protecting the people in the house are the smoke, heat, and carbon monoxide detectors. The people in the house must rely almost entirely on the detectors while they sleep. As stated earlier in this article, the lack of oxygen kills or incapacitates most victims in their sleep and they die in their beds with no chance to escape.

The most disturbing information about the common smoke detectors in most homes is that they do not work in a timely fashion in many actual fires. The documentation that accompanies most ionizing smoke detectors indicate that they will not work in up to 35% of all fires. There is also a substantial amount of information enumerating the situations and types of fires where the detectors would not be expected to work that seem designed to limit the amount of liability for the manufacturers…

The images we see on television and in the movies with bright flames of a house on fire with people moving around inside the house and trying to rescue someone are very misleading. Most actual house fires create an environment with thick smoke so that you cannot see anything and acrid and toxic smoke, where an individual cannot maintain consciousness for more than a few seconds. We need to prepare to survive by minimizing the risk of a fire starting with installing the appropriate alarm equipment in place to ensure that we can escape during the early stages while it is possible.

Click here to read the article in its entirety at TACDA.