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Attackers Set Fire To Blankets: Homelessness In America

Jul 21, 2008
Fire blankets are a crucial component of good fire safety practice. A fire blanket is thrown over a fire in progress in order to prevent it from getting further oxygen and thereby to smother it. It's one of the simplest and best methods available for taking care of small fires.

What happens, however, when fire safety is turned on its head, and when a blanket is itself used as a weapon? And what does this say about American society and its attitude toward its underclass?

It was an early morning in February of 2007 in Corona, California, a sleepy neighborhood just west of Los Angeles. A homeless couple, not identified, was trying to get some sleep. They had bedded down for the night behind the Corona Rancho Market, maybe not the safest place, but after a while on the streets, relative safety ceases to matter. You're tired, you sleep, and that's it.

The homeless man woke up to the smell of smoke, gasoline, and burning meat. Horrified, he opened his eyes to see his wife in flames. Their blanket had been doused in gasoline, most likely from a thrown Molotov cocktail in the opinion of investigators. The woman suffered serious burns and complications, as did the man, who plunged his hands into the burning blanket in order to save his wife.

Why did this happen?

Maybe it had to do with the means of attack: a thrown bottle stuffed with gasoline and lit. A distant method, one that doesn't require you to get too close. Maybe it had to do with the complex mix of pity and revulsion that most Americans have toward the homeless, a sympathy that gets blotted out sometimes by rage. Or maybe the victims were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, a tricky thing to control, when you're homeless.

And here's the sad truth. In a late-capitalist society, especially one like America, currently undergoing a massive recession, there will be people left behind. People left behind have nowhere to go and no means of defending themselves against unexplained hatred. And as economic disparity increases, so will the level of anger and so will this type of crime. Not even the best fire safety tactics in the world can prevent fires when it's a matter of deliberate arson and attempted murder. The fires in question take place outside the range of any extinguisher: they take place in the human heart.

Many people don't view the homeless as human. Sometimes the homeless don't view one another as human. The only thing that holds some people together sometimes is, horribly, the common nightmare of a "fire blanket" the common will to survive.
About the Author
To see the various uses of the fire blankets see the web site at www.FireProtectionOnline.co.uk
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