While San DIego County has been lit up for days, Blackwater USA has been heavily involved in putting out fires of its own. The controversy provoked by the killing of 17 Iraqis in September and other violent incidents has prompted the company to send out an e-mail Wednesday to its supporters calling on them to "Tell the Blackwater story."
This note from Blackwater, perhaps ill timed, is provoking outrage among California activists who are trying to prevent the private security company from building an 824-acre training facility near Potrero, California in San Diego County. While the company is hoping to become a major part of the community with its giant military-style facility, one activist told the Huffington Post that Blackwater has not yet announced any donations to relief efforts or supplied resources to assist firefighting activities in the area.
"This is a simple demonstration that these people are interested in their own greed and have no concern for the local community," said Rick Jacobs who heads up the Courage Campaign, a group that is assisting local residents who are organizing to fight construction of the Blackwater facility.
Blackwater staff did not answer multiple phone calls requesting comment on whether or not they had donated to relief efforts or assisted firefighting in the area.
While Blackwater was calling on its supporters to help promote its work in Congress, it shut down a local effort to promote "Blackwater West." An announcement on Monday night at the blog Cafe San Diego showed that Blackwater Vice President Brian Bonfliglio had canceled a live blogging question and answer session scheduled for Tuesday because of the fires.
Jacobs and others charge that building the base in an area he described as a box canyon with only two exit points would only create more major fire hazards.
The Harris Fire in San Diego County has burned 81,000 acres, reportedly destroyed 155 homes, 2 commercial properties and 17 outbuildings, and caused one death and 25 civilian injuries. The fire burned buildings in Potrero, which is only a couple of miles from Blackwater's proposed site.
"The mere fact that there would be live fire exercises very often in this tinderbox is of great concern to people who live there," he warned. "If a spark can cause a wildfire, what about a bullet? And if you have stores of ammunition, and the fires were raging, you'd get a huge explosion."
Jacobs was also angry that the company was claiming it would make Potrero safer.
"What they say here is the same as what they say in Iraq," the Courage Campaign director said. "They say they are making Iraq safer for America, but they've caused a lot of civil war. Now they like to say they'll make Potrero safer from fire. It's probably an analogous statement. They say what they have to say."