Wildfires are a fact of life in Southern California, but over the past decade, they’ve grown increasingly destructive of life and property, as developers have pushed subdivisions ever deeper into terrain once considered too risky to build on. The Station fire, which has now spectacularly devoured 122,000 acres of national forest north of Los Angeles, has actually been relatively kind; so far, only 50 homes have been lost, compared to more than 1,000 in the biggest of the fires that raced through suburban San Diego County two years ago. Two firefighters died over the weekend, when their vehicle overturned, but so far no civilians have been killed (though two people who ignored evacuation orders wound up severely burned after taking refuge in their hot tub).
Still, inevitably, there’s the question: Why does this keep happening? Today, in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky offers up a brief eulogy for the two firefighters, a prayer for those who have lost their homes, and a call to everyone else to start opening their wallets for relief efforts, using a familiar piece of the impending Rosh Hashana liturgy, the Nitaneh Tokef: “Who will live, and who will die? Who by water, and who by fire?” We’re glad he skipped the part about the earthquakes and the plagues.
Who by Water, and Who by Fire? [Jewish Journal]