Disasters: Summer Fires, Take Two

As California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger discussed the "unprecedented wildfire siege" that since late June has burned more than 700,000 acres in his state, a handful of Buddhist monks in the Los Padres National Forest valiantly protected their monastery while fire crews from Mexico, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere in the United States, including 2,000 California National Guardsmen, prepared to lend a hand to state efforts. Just another summer day in California.

The Buddhists won their battle—their retreat was spared—but the war rages on. A mere month into the burning season, the toll has already eclipsed the more than $1 billion in damage sustained from fires in 2007, when the bulk of the flames stayed south, in San Diego and Orange counties. But this year, they're touring the north, and spreading to some of California's most treasured landscapes—Big Sur among them.

So far nearly 20,000 personnel, in an army of planes and 1,590 fire trucks, have been deployed to stop them, dousing the scenery with 4 million gallons of water and flame retardant. After three weeks, they're exhausted, having pulled 24-hour shifts in weather that's unseasonably hot. And there's no relief in sight. "The fire season is going to last for the next few months. This is only the beginning," Schwarzenegger told reporters. His message to D.C.: send more funds, stat. And, we'd add, if at all possible, more monks.

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