Editor's Buzz: Inflamed

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It’s rare to find myself agreeing with Supervisor Mike Antonovich about anything, but I’m backing his criticism of the sorry job our local TV news has been doing covering these fires. Like the entire city, I’ve been watching that pyrocumulus (word of the week) grow for days. We could see the fire line, some 20 miles away, from our office windows Thursday night. For a long while we were convinced that Griffith Park was burning, too. The mountains can play tricks with your perspective. Did the TV news clarify things? Not one iota. On Saturday morning I walked onto my back porch—I live only a few miles from La Crescenta—and almost fell over: The apocalyptic cloud, set against that hyperblue sky, was unlike anything I’d ever seen. By Sunday morning you couldn’t go outside without feeling like you were licking an ashtray.

Trapped indoors with the AC blasting, I monitored the TV all weekend and could find only golf, cruddy reruns, Michael Jackson birthday tributes, and Ted Kennedy’s funeral. I didn’t even hear about the two firefighters who were lost until I turned on the BBC Saturday evening. Today in the L.A. Times, TV news directors made the excuse that they didn’t know how big the fire had grown, which got me thinking: Are there no windows in newsrooms? It was even tough to find out crucial information online for friends who were possibly going to need to evacuate.

On Sunday we got in the car to look for ourselves. Foothill Boulevard was oddly quiet, given the havoc on the hill just above. It crushed me to watch those oak trees go and to think of all the ground birds and rabbits that could never outrun the flames, to say nothing of the many people who lost their homes. Last night I counted 12 hot spots and saw flames as high as skyscrapers against the dark sky from my dining room.

I’ve hiked those mountains and spent beautiful Sundays driving across Angeles National Forest. I’ve stopped at the Hidden Springs Cafe—we ran an homage to the roadhouse in 2001. Maybe hills on my side of town don’t register for news directors, but it’s a sad day in so many ways when the worst fire to hit the city in 100 years is but a footnote to a day’s entertainment.