The Camp Fire burns through Northern California. Photo courtesy of The Hill.
Autumn marks Santa Ana season in California, a time when the wildfire risk is much higher than normal. Santa Anas are a weather phenomenon common in California in which the air becomes hot and dry, and the winds can kick up to hurricane force. The heat and lack of moisture in the air makes it possible for fires to start quickly from something as small as a lit cigarette hitting a bush. The powerful winds then carry the flames across the canyons, mountains and highways of California. This year, fires have raged throughout the state.
Butte County, in the Central Valley, fell victim to the Camp Fire. The fire began on Nov. 8 and, as of Nov. 25, has killed 85 people, with almost 249 still unaccounted for. The fire, which has been raging for over a week, finally was contained However, it destroyed more than 19,000. The fire has burned over 153,336 acres and scorched an entire town. The origin of the Camp Fire is unknown, but some homeowners in the area have filed a lawsuit against the energy company PG&E for mismanagement that they claim started the fires.
Southern California saw the Woolsey Fire, which as of Nov. 21 has been 98 percent contained, burn through Malibu. In total the fire burned 98,000 acres, and destroyed 1,500 buildings. Some of these buildings belonged to celebrities and Hollywood movie studios. These high profile victims prompted a heightened response about the fires online. The fire spread through Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, leaving burn marks so large they are visible from space.
President Trump recently visited Malibu, announcing that he would not cut wildfire funding and assuring the crowd that the increase in dangerous fires has no correlation with climate change, instead blaming it on “lots of factors.” He also congratulated the first responders and announced that his administration would work with local governments to help rebuild.
Both fires have had a long-lasting effect on California. The ash and smoke have severely damaged the air quality in both areas. Many in the Bay Area have taken to wearing masks to protect themselves from the air, which has been deemed to have the worst air quality in the world during the height of the fires.
In addition, thousands of Californians have been displaced. Cal Fire’s comprehensive evacuation plans kept the death toll down in both situations, but now many are left homeless. Since the Woolsey Fire blazed through a protected coastal habitat, the path to rebuilding in the South looks as though it will be more difficult than in the North.
Both regions have to worry about projected rains, however. Rains, like the ones projected in both regions on Thursday and Friday of this week, can lead to loose debris, landslides and flash foods in the wake of a fire. This means that once the emergency response teams finish containing the fires they must begin to focus on preparing for other possible weather events.
The current fires blazing in California have burned a record amount of land, killed a record number of people and displaced a record number of families. As Butte, Ventura and Los Angeles Counties work to pick up the pieces from the fire, there are many ways for people to help with the relief effort. For those outside California, there are many ways to donate money and supplies to the fire victims. Groups like the Salvation Army and the Red Cross have online and mail-in donation centers. GoFundMe has even compiled a list of every campaign about the fires on their platform. Supplies can be sent to the many evacuation centers set up around California.
Airbnb offers California residents the ability to extend their homes to displaced victims. Even as the fires stop burning, California will still need help as the citizens work to rebuild from this year’s fires, and prepare for the ones to come.