California set ablaze

Sean Richer – Anchor Staff

The candle has quite literally been burning at both ends of California, as two devastating wildfires burn through the state. So far, they have claimed the lives of 66 people and have burned a total 240,362 acres of land. These fires could not have come at worse time, since the people of California are still reeling from the Borderline Bar shooting, which happened just a week prior. The campfire, which has been affecting northern California has been particularly devastating. So far, the fire has been responsible for 63 of the 66 deaths statewide, and has destroyed the homes of many hundreds more. One of the most affected communities is Paradise, California. The town of 26,000 has been entirely burned to the ground with only a few abandoned buildings left standing. More bodies are expected to be found.

Graphic by Wiley Sadowski

Purple Air, an air quality watchdog organization has ranked the air quality in northern California as the worst in the world, surpassing both India and China. This is due to the massive plumes of smoke and debris that the fire has left in its wake. The smoke has become so dense that flights to and from San Francisco have been canceled and many transportation services have shut down in order to encourage people to stay indoors. Both the San Francisco Bay region and Sacramento have exceeded 300 points on the air quality index and have been labeled as “hazardous.” The larger swathes of land surrounding these two points have been deemed very unhealthy.

Another point of concern is the amount of people who are still missing. Over 630 individuals have yet to be found as friends and relatives have not been able to communicate with them. Many of the people who have been displaced by the flames have been staying in tent cities, one of which resided in a Walmart parking lot in the town of Chico. The people there have since been asked to leave, and many do not know where they will go next. Chicoan Luigi Balsamo, a resource coordinator for the camp, issued a statement saying that the Red Cross ordered it be shut down and went on to say, “I don’t think anyone wants to take responsibility for it… we can’t keep sustaining this thing.” The Red Cross has denied that they ever issued such an order, since that area does not fall under its jurisdiction. The City Manager of Chico, Mark Orme, has expressed his concern as to why the camp has closed, since the local government did not give this order either. Walmart has also issued a statement saying, “We have not asked or demanded that anyone leave the property.”

President Trump has not been shy about sharing why he thinks these fires have grown so devastating. He has repeatedly threatened to withdraw federal payments to the state if the situation is not remedied in a timely manner. While on his trip to France he tweeted, “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor…Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!” California Governor Jerry Brown wrote off the President’s comments as, “Inane and uninformed.” The President has since changed his tune, commemorating the firefighters currently battling the flames tweeting, “God Bless them all.” President Trump is scheduled to visit California over the weekend.