If reports that Southern California leaders were not adequately prepared to deal with the first big fires of this fall season sound familiar, that's because they are. The Los Angeles Times, and in particularly its editorial board, has been pointing out the area's dangerous flammability for a long time, but a look back at the paper's coverage over the last century and a quarter leaves a wise reader with some important food for thought:

• It's easier to call for fire preparedness than to be prepared;

• There are many competitors for the title of Worst Fire Ever;

• People don't appreciate firefighters enough;

• Preparedness and firefighting keep getting better, but are never quite enough;

• When you refer to the Great Malibu Fire, try to be more specific.

The tape:

December 19, 2004

Bland Role in San Diego Drama Fine With Mayor

During last year's wildfires, as flames raced across the county for nearly a week, [San Diego Mayor Dick] Murphy held multiple news conferences to report the progress of firefighters in saving homes.

Wearing a yellow Fire Department slicker, he was unwavering in his message: It's a dangerous situation, but we have good people working on it.

No one would confuse Murphy with Rudolph Giuliani's commanding performance in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, but Murphy's steady message of "Don't panic; we'll get through this" was later praised.

December 28, 2003


The deadly Cedar blaze's speed and ferocity repeatedly surprised officials, who were outmatched from the start.

... In Poway, Chief Mark Sanchez had 15 firefighters to protect the city's 49,000 residents.[...]