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By Greg Gerber
Editor, RV Daily Report
A story today from California noted that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is ordering people who lost their homes in the California wildfires to leave their property. They can no longer live in an RV next to their fire-damaged or destroyed homes.
And FEMA is enforcing this order by threatening to withhold federal emergency funds from any local government entity that allows people to live in an RV.
According to an article appearing in the Press Democrat, David Samaniego, the FEMA official in charge of the agency’s wildfire response, told local authorities Jan. 24 that allowing the RVs into Paradise jeopardized public health and safety.
I would remind Mr. Samaniego that RVs come with their own toilets. So, how is public health jeopardized by having people live in them. In fact, he may not be aware of the fact that at least one million families live full-time in their RVs every day.
Councilwoman Melissa Schuster said the Paradise City Council passed the ordinance in December allowing residents to live in RVs out of desperation. Thousands of residents remain without long-term temporary housing while the region tries to rebuild.
In what has become a perfect example of government ineptitude, FEMA actually purchased hundreds of RVs for people to live in as emergency shelters on temporary basis while their homes were rebuilt.
What does FEMA want displaced homeowners to do now? Take their FEMA-issued RVs and go on a one- or two-month vacation?
Maybe Mr. Samaniego doesn’t realize that RVs are actually capable of being moved, and rather quickly at that. Moving an RV is faster than moving a manufactured home, and infinitely faster than getting anything of significance accomplished in Washington.
What is preventing someone with knowledge and organization skills from going neighborhood to neighborhood with a schedule as to when each area will be cleaned and rendered safe?
Then, the RV owners could stay on their property, move for a day or two to allow the cleanup to occur, and come right back while their new homes are being built. They don’t have to leave what is left of their possessions susceptible to theft by government contractors or others who seize upon the opportunity to explore the unsecured property.
I would argue that having people live in RVs in damaged neighborhoods does more to prevent looting and improve public safety than having police officers roll past in a squad car a few times a day.
In the Press Democrat article, Schuster said she hired a contractor to clear her debris rather than waiting for government-supported crews to get to her property. Does that surprise anyone? How many years did it take for FEMA to clean up the mess after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans?
Schuster said her property is mostly cleared and she and her husband are just awaiting inspection and certification, so she’s hopeful they won’t have to leave.
The article noted that it takes about two days to clear debris from a lot, but up two weeks for a government employee with a clipboard to visit the area, look to ensure the land was cleared of debris, and certify the property safe.
Here is an idea. Have government inspectors ride in the dump trucks removing debris from the area.
While someone with a real job works to clean up the area, Mr. Clipboard can begin writing up citations and environmental impact orders to further disrupt the lives of homeowners once the land has been cleared.
Why are people so angry and distrustful of government?
You don’t have to look far to find examples of inefficiency, financial waste, abuse of power and nonsense policies like these that make things easier for government officials to handle, but much more difficult for people impacted by tragedies to overcome.