The way California has faced its wildfire challenge stands in stark contrast to the response in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Reporters who covered both the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans and the current wildfires in California say there is no comparison between the manner and effectiveness of those supervising and organizing relief efforts in the two catastrophes.
Time and time again, those covering the two situations say the emergency responses are as different as night and day.
The New Orleans mayor and Louisiana governor could not get their act together. They blamed each other, other politicians and the federal government for not acting in a timely and effective manner. The opposite seems to be true in California.
California officials, at both the local and state levels, use every opportunity to point out the excellent manner in which the fires have been confronted. Mayors, firefighting officials, law enforcement officers, the National Guard, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein all are congratulating the state and its citizens for the way they have responded to the unprecedented fire conditions.
The planning to meet such disasters was solid, and when the time came to execute the various contingency plans, they worked. There wasn't any of the procrastination, fingerpointing, blame game, ineptness or raw politics that the nation witnessed in New Orleans.
In California, there has been a well-designed, smooth-functioning effort with local, state and national officials coordinating their efforts and resources to battle the flames. The governor is receiving high marks for his leadership, and he and his top aides already are talking about how to be even more effective if and when the state faces other similar challenges.
Leadership and vision does mean a great deal. California has it; New Orleans and Louisiana didn't. Politics didn't get in the way in California. How would Kansas measure up if faced with a natural disaster similar to the fires in California or the flooding in New Orleans?