Cool Stuff: Fa’afetai tele California Wildfire Fighters
West Hills, CALFORNIA — Together, in Samoa, we have been through cyclones, tsunamis, torrential downpours, and rough seas. I don’t think we have ever been engulfed by miles and miles of 50 mph raging fire winds. Houses were decimated in minutes... they vanished... they by-passed the burning phase.
I raced from Hawai’i to Southern California as I grew up experiencing the demonic Santa Ana winds. My parents are elderly and “knew” from our past brush fires that they would be spared. Whether its “Climate Change” or a bad combination of drought, intense winds and bad luck... I had to be there to evacuate them if necessary... age old wisdom to this ol’ Valley Boy was out the window.
With my parents packed to dash, I spent the worst day for Bell Canyon and West Hills covering the fire’s front lines for you exclusively in the Samoa News.
“Are they coming yet?” was my repetitive email to Editor in Chief Rhonda. She knew what I meant. The American Samoa firefighters are a recognized tough resilient group who I expected to arrive any moment. The California firefighters worked 36- 48 hours with no sleep.
Maybe American Samoa firefighters did show up in Northern California (Paradise & Camp fires) or maybe outside my view in nearby Malibu, Agoura or Thousand Oaks.
Firefighters from all over California, Texas, and specialized maneuverable water drop planes from Canada were all around me, and captured by my trusty Nikons.
The fires burned from the hillsides within inches of the Stonegate and greater West Hills neighborhoods. In Bell Canyon frequently the fire couldn’t be restrained resulting in many homes being incinerated.
With rains and flooding to be Phase 2 of the drama, I went back to the fire scene Thanksgiving Eve afternoon.
I was in tears to see the outpouring of love and appreciation for all first responders chalked steps from charred formerly pristine nature... which was why the folks built and moved to the hills of my youth adventures. (At 9 we foolishly hunted rattlesnakes with BB guns, at 11 we were riding trail bikes in my precious wild Woodland Hills).
As firefighters, police and paramedics had come from all over the Nation I viewed the 40-50 messages I saw as a universal tribute to all, including American Samoa’s brave.
If called, we know American Samoas would have gone and risked all. And we the Samoa News would have been there with mask and goggles covering them.
It may be a new era of natural disasters America faces. Support American Samoa’s first responders because the Territory and Samoa will face the unimaginable again and be called upon to help other communities.
They will be there for you. Urge your elected Fono Members and Honorable Congresswoman to gear them up now. Every department has serious needs, except one... they excel in an abundance of courage.