Fanning Out the Flames

Who we are leaving behind in the fire


Taylor Chapman

Toni Ouyang ’19 feels strongly about helping those in need who suffered from the ravages of the California wildfires.

The sky is grey for weeks on end in sunny California. A thick blanket of smoke covers Los Angeles. Flourishing vegetation, forest habitats, and thousands of homes all burned to ashes in 2018. Raging fires chased people out of their homes and sometimes even out of their cars as dense traffic moved slower than the dangerous flames. Many people had to leave behind their lives to survive the fires—and this all could have been prevented.

Wildfires can typically spread up to seven mph in forests and fourteen mph in grasslands. Because many were unaware of the official evacuation plans in their areas, most residents did not follow proper procedure, even when the fires grew dangerously close. Since cell phone reception was down in some areas such as Magalia,  there was no way of contacting authorities to find out where to go.

Malibu Wine Safari has also faced criticism for their lack of preparation in regards to their animals. Stretching for over 1,000 acres of land, the area became threatened by the Woolsey Fire on November 9th, 2018. Animals were rescued days after humans had already evacuated the area, and larger animals were only relocated to a potentially safe area on the land.

Exposure to wildfire smoke can cause major health complications, especially for firefighters and nearby residents that face constant exposure. The smoke has only continued to travel and affect neighboring cities. It has been reported that recent wildfire air has traveled over 3,000 miles up to New York and Washington D.C.

“I can’t build a house for someone who just lost their home, but I can donate blankets, socks, and other necessary items,” said Melody Su.

Camp Fire, declared the worst wildfire in the state’s history, began on November 8th, 2018 and raged for seventeen days before being contained. Many residents began to refer to this as a “holiday miracle” and as the weather cooled, many people believed that the disaster had come to an end.

However, couples like Los Angeles residents twenty-three year old Calvin Chou and Melody Su are suffering the aftermath. Su, who has grown up in the area, has experienced climate change firsthand. As a USC graduate and current employee, she has seen those around her suffer.

“One of my coworkers from USC lives in the Northridge area, so her father who is a gardener, lost many of his customers because the houses and gardens in Thousand Oaks/ Calabasas/ Malibu were all ruined,” said Su.

When asked about any personal evacuation plans she had, Su said, “It would be easy for me to pick and choose what I would want to take away with me. But, I would not know where to go.”

“You can see the sky change when there is a fire. The air quality drops dramatically,” Chou said.

The fight against wildfires’ have become a national effort. AirBnB has offered wildfire relief with their Open Homes program, and charities such as Google, California Fire Foundation, and the Red Cross have opened up nonprofit funding and shelters for victims.

Medical and volunteer centers, as well as hotels have been offering services to evacuees as well. Enloe Medical Center in Chico, a popular evacuation site, is accepting donations, and The Standard Hotel in Los Angeles offered free one-night rooms to those in need.

New Yorkers have opened up various fundraisers to aid the cause. The Empire State Building lit up blue and gold, the California state colors, in tribute to the victims of the fires. At Bronx Science, students are looking to help. The League of Environment and Animal Protection (LEAP) club raised funds to donate to the California wildfire victims.

We should all strive to aid those in need. “I can’t build a house for someone who just lost their home, but I can donate blankets, socks, and other necessary items,” said Su.