Friday Shorts: Responding to a real emergency in Tuolumne County

August 22, 2013 

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A DC-10 drops fire retardant over the Rim fire east of Ferretti Road in the Stanislaus National Forest on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013.

ANDY ALFARO — The Modesto Bee Buy Photo

— We're pleased that Gov. Jerry Brown responded quickly and declared a state of emergency in Tuolumne County because of the Rim fire, which grew exponentially in the last 36 hours.

The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors requested the emergency declaration Wednesday afternoon and Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, followed up early Thursday with the same request. The governor issued it Thursday afternoon.

The declaration makes it easier to put all kinds of state personnel, equipment and facilities to work in battling the fire and protecting the people and property in its path. The declaration is important, but one of the challenges of this fire is that it is on such steep, inaccessible areas of the national forest that sending more fire engines and firefighters doesn't accomplish a lot. Primarily, aircraft are being used.

As of this writing late Thursday afternoon, no one has been killed or injured in this fire and we sure hope it stays this way.

Residents of Tuolumne County are being alerted to stay indoors if the smoke has limited their visibility to five miles or less. They also are encouraged to stay at home, to leave roads open for emergency crews and those carrying supplies to them. Valley residents would be helping out by staying away from Tuolumne County until the fire is under control.

County central committees obviously have a partisan purpose.

They try to get people to register to vote as members of their party. They encourage people in their party to run for local, state and federal offices and then work to help those people get elected. Central committee volunteers stuff envelopes, make phone calls urging voters from their party to go to the polls and generally promote the candidates and values of their party.

County central committees draw some of the most committed political junkies.

Much of what they do is only of interest to the leaders within their party. However, they still have to live within the state's Fair Political Practices Act laws. And in the interest of credibility within their own ranks, they need to be transparent to their own committee members.

As reported by Garth Stapley in last Sunday's Bee, some questions are being asked about Stanislaus County's Republican Central Committee — from the Fair Political Practices Commission and from within the committee itself. Some committee members say everything just fine; others are concerned.

We often say that transparency builds trust and credibility. That's true with the leadership of government agencies, of nonprofit organizations — and of county central committees.

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