Dana Wilkie, Brooke Williams and Danielle Cervantes, San Diego Union-Tribune, August 3, 2008
"The city [of San Diego] hired two companies, which billed by the ton. They removed more debris from 112 homes than the city anticipated and more than many private contractors believe would have been possible.
"Ultimately, A.J. Diani Construction Co. of Santa Maria and Watsonville-based Granite Construction Co. charged an average of nearly $83,400 per home, according to a San Diego Union-Tribune analysis of the companies' contracts and invoices. The total program cost was at least $9.4 million.
"The contractors' bills far exceeded an initial estimate of $28,000 per home. Some were almost nine times what privately retained contractors charged to clear nearly identical lots."
Malia Wollan, Associated Press, July 15, 2008
"Business is booming for private firefighting companies as drought and soaring temperatures combine to create one of the worst fire seasons in years across the West. Some contractors are even acquiring their own fire engines and flying helicopters.
"But some fire officials question the reliance on private crews, raising doubts about their training and whether they could get in the way of government firefighters. Others are concerned that a trend toward privatization will give protection to the wealthy, but leave other homeowners vulnerable to the flames."
Emmet Pierce, San Diego Union-Tribune, March 25, 2008
"Now other companies that provide homeowner's insurance are identifying supplemental fire-protection services as a business opportunity. The Chubb Group of Insurance Companies recently announced a program that includes the spraying of fire-blocking gel during wildfires, and Fireman's Fund also plans to enter the market....
"'We are seeing more of that kind of above-and-beyond service in high-end markets,' said Candysse Miller, executive director of the Insurance Information Network of California. But as a new wildfire season approaches, some public safety officials worry that private firefighting programs could interfere with their efforts to combat flames. Other observers worry that two tiers of fire protection may be emerging: one for the general population and one for the affluent."
Miriam Raftery, Raw Story, December 10, 2007
"Today, a decline in public funding for firefighting services has sparked explosive growth in the private sector. The world’s largest insurance company – American Insurance Group – now has “Wildfire Protection Units” in 150 US zip codes. During the 2007 California wildfires, AIG’s firefighters saved homes in wealthy areas, while less fortunate neighbors were left with rubble....Fighting fires has become big business. The National Wildfire Suppression Association (NWSA), a trade organization founded in 2000, now represents over 200 private companies and 10,000 wild land firefighters. The private firefighting industry is estimated to be worth billions of dollars."
Maria Margaronis, The Guardian, November 9, 2007
"Now that the world's eyes have turned away, the Peloponnese is facing its own moment of what Naomi Klein has called "disaster capitalism". She has documented how big business turns disaster to its advantage - whether in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Sri Lanka after the tsunami or Iraq since the occupation. In Greece, the scale may be smaller but the pattern is familiar: an inept government, which is slow to respond to the disaster; private initiatives rushing in to fill the gap; local officials seizing the chance to push forward pet schemes, and a resident population too bewildered to do anything about it. 'We're all in shock still,' says Maria Pothou, in the village of Makistos. 'And yet we have to try to organise ourselves and try to make decisions.'"
Mark Sauer and Janine Zúñiga, San Diego Union Tribune, November 1, 2007
"A tent city is set to spring from the ashes near Barrett Junction as wildfire-weary residents in the rugged community near the Mexico border have been told they will be without water and electricity for another 10 days. Trucks carrying makeshift quarters for up to 200 people, with tents, cots, toilets, showers, power generators, laundry facilities and a community room with TV, are scheduled to arrive today. The tent city, a donation from the controversial private-military company Blackwater Worldwide (formerly USA), is expected to be constructed tomorrow with equipment and materials coming from the firm's North Carolina headquarters."
* "Blackwater's Relief Effort Wins Praise of Project Foe," San Diego Union Tribune, October 30, 2007
Kim Yoshino, Los Angeles Times, October 26, 2007
"Carrier is a certified firefighter, but he doesn't work for a government agency. He's an employee of Firebreak Spray Systems, which partners with the insurance company American International Group Inc. to protect the mansions of the moneyed.
"AIG's Wildfire Protection Unit, part of its Private Client Group, is offered only to homeowners in California's most affluent ZIP Codes -- including Malibu, Beverly Hills, Newport Beach and Menlo Park -- and a dozen Colorado resort communities. It covers about 2,000 policyholders, who pay premiums of at least $10,000 a year and own homes with a value of at least $1 million."
Elinda Labropoulou, Independent, September 19, 2007
"The Greek government is facing a major embarrassment within days of its re-election after it gave property developers the green light to build on an environmentally sensitive area next to forests ravaged by this summer's deadly fires. Documents leaked to the Greek press show the finance ministry pushed through an agreement allowing building activity to begin in a protected area in the Southern Peloponnese, the region hardest hit by last month's blazes that killed 67 people and destroyed nearly half a million acres of forest and farmland.... "The agreement, revealed this week, covers a valuable coastal zone in Zaharo, the area that accounted for nearly half of the deaths during last month's 'national emergency.'"