Blog Syndicate

California Wildfires, Horses and Celebrities


The fire is most dire in my neighborhood today. At 12:30pm today it is very close. I hear that there are fire crews stationed at every house in my neighborhood. Here’s my most recent report …

The fire danger is much worse today, and the evacuation areas were broadly expanded westward and into the city of Santa Barbara. Here’s the new map (my house is in area MTO2, North of highway 192 and East of Parma Park on the evacuation map):

That said, the giant #ThomasFire has given firefighters an unusual week’s warning to assemble and deploy an army of firemen, and time to prepare battle plans – something that didn’t happen in the recent, faster moving Northern California fires. Their first plan failed yesterday as the fire crossed their defensive lines, moving West at San Ysidro canyon, just to the east of us.

The Santa Ana winds will be kicking up dramatically today and tomorrow, in our direction, which is why it looks dire today. Here’s the satellite hotspot map but it currently shows the fire location from yesterday:…/interactive-map-southern…/

News reports about California wildfires often seem to focus on horses, celebrities and schadenfreude. Sometimes fire victims suffer a second time from the crazy news coverage.

There is a mandatory evacuation now in my neighborhood in Montecito, California, as the huge Thomas Fire creeps closer, filling the air with acrid smoke and dusting everything with ash. The evacuation order is expected to last through the week. The fire has already claimed over seven hundred homes.

I’m a political cartoonist and my house is filled with my own art and a big collection of cartoon artwork from my colleagues. My son and I got back into the house on Monday to grab more family photos, papers and artwork. I saw that many of my neighbors had the same idea. I took the opportunity to water the yard, clean the rain gutters and move things away from the house – things that probably made little difference, but relieved my stress. My house is still filled with artwork as the fire bears down.

I was raised in Montecito. I inherited the house my schoolteacher mother bought in 1964 for $28,000, an amount that seems ridiculous by today’s standards. Montecito is filled with normal working people who have lived in the neighborhood for decades as property values soared, helped by the low property taxes of California’s Proposition 13. It was a normal place in my childhood, now Montecito is expensive, known as the place where Oprah Winfrey has a house, along with a long list of other Hollywood notables. I don’t know where those celebrities live. They don’t come by to say “hello.”

In 1977 my mother’s house burned in the Sycamore Canyon Fire that claimed around 250 homes; she chose to rebuild. Why do people rebuild after a fire? Because it is home, and after a disaster we see mistakes with what seems to be clarity. The house had a wood shake roof, and the 1977 fire seemed to claim only houses with wood shake roofs. Now the house has a concrete roof, no attic vents and a concrete yard. We have regular inspections by the local fire department and we follow their advice, but today’s superfires seem to claim anything in their paths, no matter what roofs are made of, and no matter what advice is followed.

I was a college student, living at home when the 1977 fire suddenly swooped in. I watched as the news media was filled with reports of horses in danger and rich celebrities fleeing their homes. I remember a segment sometime later, on Britains’ popular Spitting Image TV show, a cartoonist’s favorite, where screaming celebrity caricatures were running around, engulfed in flames as the audience roared with laughter.

The media’s trivial obsessions had a tangible effect in 1977. President Jimmy Carter refused to declare Santa Barbara and Montecito a federal disaster area, noting that the people here are wealthy and can take care of themselves. A disaster declaration would have meant that my mother and I could have lived in a FEMA trailer for a year, while our house was being re-built.

A few months later there was a similar fire in Malibu; for some reason, the media didn’t focus on celebrities that time and Carter declared a federal disaster area, even though the average income of the Malibu fire victims was higher than the income of victims of our Montecito fire. Media coverage made all the difference with Carter.

The new tax bill, that Congress may soon pass, takes away the deduction for losses that fire victims suffer. There is little sympathy for celebrity fire victims. Horses get more sympathy, and they don’t file income taxes. Perhaps people who rebuild in fire prone areas get the least sympathy of all.

I fear we’ll see the same international media response if the wind shifts in the next few days. The dry brush of celebrity schadenfreude is ready to burn … along with my mother’s house.

Blog Syndicate

California’s “Drought”

We live with a never-ending drought in California – especially in Santa Barbara where I was just hit by a whopping $906.15 water bill for December from my local Montecito Water District. The bill included a $480.00 penalty, a $144.90 “surcharge” and a $44.59 “meter service charge.” The charge for the actual water used was $236.66. I have no idea why I had a higher reading on the meter last month. I’m guessing that the gardener may have left my low-flow sprinklers running – but that is just a guess.

I might try appealing the bill, but I’m allowed to appeal only the $480.00 penalty portion of the bill and the water district charges a non-refundable fee of over $200.00 to appeal a penalty (they tell me my appeal would be rejected because I can’t explain the high meter reading).

In “drought stricken” California we live with the random threat of crazy water bills bloated by penalties, along with our “gold is the new green” lawns. No amount of rain seems to impact the drought perception. Our local reservoir, Lake Cachuma, remains at alarmingly low levels compared to other lakes because it isn’t much of a lake; it is sustained with deliveries of water from the California state water system, which have been curtailed because of the drought. Other, better planned California reservoirs have been overflowing from the recent storms. As much as I hate to say it, I have to agree with Donald Trump that the California drought is more a matter of poor planning and poor priorities.

Nothing will turn a liberal cartoonist into a conservative like receiving a $906.15 water bill when the whole state is flooded.

Blog Columns

How I Got My Marijuana License

Here’s my non-fiction, autobiographical cartoon about my recently getting my California Marijuana license!

152402 600 How I Got My Marijuana License  cartoons

My local altie newspaper, the Santa Barbara Independent, printed this on the back page of their current issue – there it is below.  I thought it looked pretty good.  The colors always darken up in print, so I try to use light, fruity colors in my cartoons; they hold up better.


And look how cool my autobiographical marijuana license cartoon is in Spanish!

Daryl Cagle, Medical Marijuana, Spanish,Como Obtuve mi Licencia Para Marihuana Medicinal


UCSB Porn Professor and Pro Life Protests

147571 600 UCSB Porn Professor and Pro Life Protests cartoons


Celebrity Fires and the Media

Celebrity Fires and the Media © Daryl Cagle,,Montecito,Malibu,media,television,fire,wildfire,California,Santa Barbara


Celebrity Fires Consume the Media

A mandatory evacuation remains in effect for my neighborhood in Montecito after the devastating “Tea Fire” this week. My son and I stayed at my house longer than we should have, filling the cars with keepsakes and watering the place down with a garden hose until the howling winds driving the smoke and embers our way become too much for us.

The fire was churning on all the hills behind my house in wide, glowing swaths — not like the usual thin line of flame we’re used to seeing at the leading edge of a fire. Being in the path of the fire, the wind blew the smoke, soot and embers directly at us making it difficult to see more than a few feet at times, and sometimes clearing to reveal a brightening, eerie, orange glow as the fire drew closer. I was sure the fire was only a couple of houses away when we fled. Firemen were directing traffic and calling on people to evacuate; I didn’t see them doing any fire fighting when we left. The fire was moving too fast for fire fighting and all they could do was focus on people.

I found my way past police barricades the next morning to see that my house survived, along with all the houses on my street. I live adjacent to Westmont College, which lost a half dozen buildings, and the next street over from mine, Westmont Road, lost a number of homes. The hills all around are barren and charred. The last report I saw estimated 150 homes lost.

I know how my neighbors feel. I was a college student, living with my mother in the same spot, when the 1977 Sycamore Canyon fire destroyed our home and about 250 others. Both fires started in the exact, same location and burned much the same area.

I also get a sense of deja vu from the media coverage of the fire. Reports from around the world have focused on celebrities who live in town. The news leads with quotes from Oprah Winfrey (her house is fine; she was out of town at the time) and actor Rob Lowe (whose house was undamaged). We see lists of celebrities with recognizable names who live in town. Actor Christopher Lloyd was out of town as his caretaker fled his house, which was “valued last year at $11.3 million.” Crazy prices of local mansions are listed. We read about how many acres there are on Oprah’s estate. Readers love stories about rich, beautiful, powerful celebrities who are made to suffer. Schadenfreude sells. Supermarket tabloids delight us with one celebrity hardship after another.

American celebrity suffering is even more titillating to audiences around the world. I was in London some years ago when there was a fire in Malibu, and I witnessed firsthand the delight screaming from tabloid headlines. I remember watching the puppet show, “Spitting Image,” the number-one show on British TV at the time; the audience roared in laughter as puppet caricatures of celebrities ran this way and that, chased by fire. A screaming, flaming Sylvester Stallone puppet yelled, “Yo! Yo! Yo!”

The media’s celebrity obsession has little to do with actual events on the ground. Most of the homes that were lost belong to regular folks. I inherited my house from my mother who spent her career working for the local school district. The homes of 14 teachers at Westmont College were lost. I don’t know where those celebrities live.

In 1977 the media’s trivial obsessions had a tangible effect. President Jimmy Carter refused to declare a federal disaster area, noting that the people here are wealthy and can take care of themselves. A disaster declaration would have meant that my mother and I could have lived in a FEMA trailer for a year, while our house was being re-built.

A few months later there was a similar fire in Malibu; for some reason, the media didn’t focus on celebrities that time and Carter declared a disaster area, even though the average income of the Malibu fire victims was higher than the income of victims of my fire. Media coverage made the difference.

President Carter’s smarmy, hypocritical response turned me into a Republican.

Daryl Cagle is a political cartoonist and blogger for; he is a past president of the National Cartoonists Society and his cartoons are syndicated to more than 850 newspapers, including the paper you are reading. Daryl runs the most popular cartoon site on the Web at His book “The BIG Book of Campaign 2008 Political Cartoons,” is available in bookstores now, and he has a new book coming out before Christmas, “The Best Political Cartoons of the Year, 2009 Edition.” See Daryl’s cartoons and columns at