Wildfires in Northern and Southern California claim 31 lives so far
Monday, November 12, 2018
Paradise, California, north of Sacramento, is a town of 27,000 people that has been all but wiped out as both Northern and Southern California burn up in another round of deadly fires.
So far, 29 lives have been lost in the northern part of the state, where the Camp fire has burned up 6,700 structures. In Southern California, the Woolsley and Hill fires have caused a mass evacuation of 250,000 people, leaving two dead and more missing.
When residents fled their homes, they encountered serious problems as clogged roads made evacuation difficult. In the north, a drive that usually takes 20 minutes can take up to four hours, as vehicles are densely packed on roads with everyone in the same situation with nothing else to do but slowly crawl away from fire.
This occurred even though towns report evacuation preparedness plans. There’s not much that can be done when you only have one major route in and out of certain areas.
Four Paradise residents have been found dead in cars, reminding us of the challenges and importance of safe evacuation routes. When it comes to California fires, it’s best to be ahead of the mass evacuations, if that’s possible.
According to The New York Times, Paradise looks like a scorched ghost town: "On Sunday, Paradise was ringed with miles of scorched earth. Inside the town were the charred remains of gas stations, hair salons and tattoo parlors. The Paradise Inn was mostly debris, save for a sign, and one restaurant was recognizable only by the arrangement of metal-frame chairs left standing. Hundreds of abandoned cars filled parking lots and the sides of the road."
Down south, the Santa Ana winds promise to spread fire as trees and power lines are downed. The Woolsley fire has scorched 85,5000 acres and destroyed 177 structures. This fire, burning near Malibu, jumped the Pacific Coast Highway to the ocean side. This area is usually protected, but some homes located there have been burned to the ground.
Malibu residents forced to evacuate include Gerard Butler, Miley Cyrus, and Neil Young.
So far no one knows the cause of the fires. However, the possibility of fires being caused by downed power lines has not been ruled out.
On Nov. 8, Southern California Edison reported a power outage in Ventura County. Before the Camp fire broke out, Pacific Gas & Electric reported an electrical transmission line problem that could be linked to the cause of the deadliest fire in California history, which is currently only 25 percent contained.
Sacramento residents are feeling the effects from poor air quality due to nearby fires, and city officials are handing out particulate respirator masks to help residents breathe easier. The masks are "approved by the EPA, carry an N-95 classification and are designed to protect the lungs from small particles found in wildfire smoke." These masks are available at almost all citywide fire stations.
The city currently reports an Air Quality Index of 367 in some areas. Above 150 is considered unhealthy.
In the meantime, California Gov. Jerry Brown is in a heated debate about climate change’s links to the fires with President Donald Trump. While Trump blames poor forest management for the fires, Brown claims that climate change denial contributes to the tragedies. Brown seeks a "major disaster declaration" from the White House so the state can respond more adequately to the fires.
Other states are lending a hand. Arizona, Washington, and Texas are sending extra firefighters to help contain these deadly blazes that are expected to continue burning.
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