|February 7, 2006|
The Untimely Demise of Alpine Estates
by The Angry Liberal
So you're driving home early one morning at the end of your graveyard shift. As you approach your neighborhood, the lovely Alpine Estates, you're suddenly aware that there is a lot of smoke coming from the general direction of your subdivision. You turn onto your street, only to find it blocked off a short distance from the main road. You stare in horror past the flashing lights and pumper trucks and are struck with the cold realization that one of the houses in your neighborhood is burning.
You rush toward a fire truck to get some information. That's when you stumble onto a group of men and women in a heated discussion. Some of them are firefighters. Some of them are your neighbors. Some of them are law enforcement officials. As best you can tell from the conversation, the situation is as follows: A house on the other side of the subdivision is engulfed in flames and family members are trapped inside. It's not a total loss yet, but tremendous damage has been done. An angry, swirling wind has begun to blow, and it is threatening to spread the fire up into the beautiful Douglas firs that line the neighborhood, endangering the surrounding homes. The whole neighborhood is at risk. The local fire department has struggled all night to get this blaze under control, but the wind has made it too dangerous to fight. Several firefighters have been seriously injured fighting the flames and searching for survivors, and everybody is exhausted. If that's not bad enough, a work crew seemed to appear from nowhere and is quietly cutting down the neighborhood's stately Douglas fir trees, most of which are over 200 years old, reportedly in an effort to keep the fire from spreading. Whether more houses burn or not, your beloved Alpine Estates is losing the very reason that people wanted to live here in the first place.
The argument is over what to do next. Should the firefighters pull back and try to contain the fire inside a perimeter? Should they bring in reinforcements, endangering more firefighters? Should more trees be cleared to lessen the possibility of the fire spreading? After a couple of minutes of listening to these people argue over the proper course of action, you begin to get the sense that there is no good solution here. Regardless of what the fire department and the logging crew do next, more lives will be endangered. More property will be destroyed. More families will grieve. In short, your neighborhood will never be the same again.
Then, an interesting thought crosses your mind. How did this fire start?
It seems that a few days ago, an escaped convict snuck into Alpine Estates and killed an entire family. Outraged, the neighborhood demanded that something be done. The killer was tracked to an old farmhouse a mile down the road. Instead of breaking down the door and arresting the killer, the house was set ablaze by the police and destroyed. The killer escaped the inferno, however, and is still at large. The bewildered homeowners have been offered modest assistance and are attempting to get on with their lives.
Last night while you were at work, it seems, the sheriff announced that the killer had been tracked to a house in your neighborhood and was threatening to strike again. With a gleam in his eye, the sheriff announced that Alpine Estates would not be safe until the suspected hideout was burned to the ground. Some folks questioned this plan of action. After all, the forecast predicted a warm and dry night with a high likelihood of strong winds. They wondered how the sheriff was so sure that the killer was in this house. They worried whether the sheriffs plan would endanger the whole neighborhood. A small but vocal group of his cowardly supporters cursed their more well-informed neighbors and demanded that the sheriff take action for security reasons. Everybody watched in shock and awe as the sheriff swaggered up to the house, poured gasoline onto its walls, and struck a match. And as the flames lit up the night sky, a voice on a police scanner cut the air, announcing that the killer had been spotted in the next county. After some questioning, it turned out that the sheriff had based his decision to burn your neighbors house on a tip from a local drunk, who revealed the "location" of the killer for five dollars. So far, the only person found in the flaming house was a well-known wife-beater; a criminal, to be sure, but nobody who presented a threat to anyone outside his own family. And with screams emanating from the flaming home, the fire department had no choice but to enter the inferno to search for survivors.
So here we are. We are having trouble deciding what to do next. Some want to ignore the danger our situation presents to the fighters in a possibly futile attempt to save lives. Some want to call in help from outside. Some say the fight is just too dangerous and want to pull the fighters back. Some are so scared, they are willing to destroy the very reason everybody wants to live here just to feel safer. And what about the killer, who's still at large? Everybody is arguing about what to do next. But two things should be clear to anybody who is even remotely familiar with our predicament. First, there is no good solution and no good outcome to this tragic and costly mistake. And second, its high time that we take the matches away from the dumb son of a bitch who started the fire in the first place.Angry Liberal's web store. Write The Angry Liberal at: firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2002, The Angry Liberal