California wildfires take a toll on the state; many lose belongings

Sep 7 • Opinion, Top Stories • 767

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Living in California has its perks, including a beautiful coastline with near perfect beaches and sunsets every day. The state has amazing sunny summer days with little to no rain, but sometimes that can be a curse. I am aware that life in California is beautiful, but it is less beautiful when it’s on fire all summer. In 2018 according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the National Interagency Fire Center, 5,811 fires have burned a total of 1,413,237 acres of land.

The fires are now the largest in state history, even starting earlier than a usual fire season, with the first fire burning on Feb.18. The fire started in Inyo County, located in central California, and burned a total of 2,070 acres, before being contained on April 3.

There are still seven active wildfires in California, the largest of which — the Mendocino Complex — is still burning. It started burning on July 27, charring a total of 459,123 acres.

The heat and humidity that radiates off fires make for an uncomfortable summer for those who live near the fires. The threat of evacuation and the fear of potentially losing your home is enough to scare away a lot of tourists.

Yes, we have amazing cities and amusement parks for everyone from San Diego’s SeaWorld to Anaheim’s Disneyland or even Los Angeles’ Universal Studios Hollywood. But some of these parks have even been evacuated due to the horrendous fires that loom a mere 10 miles away.

Toward the end of my summer, I heard on the news that there was a fire that started in Escondido, about 18 miles from the coast, just east of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in San Pasqual Valley, that ended up threatening the animals from the park. Later I found out that the fire, dubbed the Cloverdale Fire, was actually arson, which was determined by the San Diego Arson Strike Team.

In recent news, a man was arrested in connection with five of the fires. The man, 32-year-old Brandon McGlover, also is accused of setting one of the largest fires this season called the Cranston fire. This fire in southwest Riverside County, started July 25 burning 13,139 acres. Some 3,000 homes were evacuated before it was extinguished on Aug. 10.

In May of 2014, my home was a part of that threat. I remember walking out of school and seeing a huge cloud of black smoke just south of the school. I went to class to find out that Poinsettia Elementary – which is the school my sister attended at the time – was being evacuated because there were fires right behind the school. I called my mother, who was driving to get my sister, and she told me that the valley next to our apartment complex was on fire.

The threat of losing your home is one that looms over a lot of people in California, especially those who live inland more or live next to dry brush. The heat is part of the problem. It helps fuel the fires but the lack of wind helps the firefighters as they don’t have to deal much with the fires changing direction.

But even though we have the threat of imminent fires, we all still manage to have fun in the sun at the beach with our friends and family all summer long.

AMY BENKOVICH

benkovich003@knights.gannon.edu

 

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