Los Angeles wildfires a ‘horrifyingly different’ experience to B.C. resident

Graham Cox / November 14, 2018

One of the fires called ‘The Camp Fire’ burns along a ridge near Big Bend, California
(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

British Columbians are familiar to seeing forest fires throughout the province every summer. This past summer, Kimberley resident Katie Caldwell and her family were put on evacuation notice due to fires in the area. She said she was prepared for emergency, but ultimately never had to leave her home. Following a recent trip to Los Angeles, however, Caldwell said that what is happening down there is a whole other experience.

“It’s so horrifyingly different, we literally watched the Woolsey fire start up from a Starbucks drive-thru. Talk about feeling helpless.”

The ‘Woolsey Fire,’ just outside the city of Los Angeles, is one of two major fires that are burning in the state, the other being the ‘Camp Fire’ near Sacramento. According to Caldwell, those are just the two making headlines.

“What many people don’t realize, is that there are new fires popping up every day, and just adding to the destruction. There are other fires that aren’t even making the news.. they’re not big enough, not important enough, not deadly enough.”

Caldwell said she was receiving notifications and updates ‘minute-by-minute’ of new fires popping up all around her location. She also described the general feeling in the city as uneasy, emphasizing that it seemed to be the only topic of conversation that could be overheard out in public and although Caldwell was only in LA for under a week, the increase in size of the fire over that time was immense.

“There were no words for us to describe how much it had grown in such a short time. The city was burning right before our eyes. From miles and miles away, we could see flames in 3 separate directions shooting up from the hills. It was dark at 3pm. It was the most apocalyptic thing I’ve ever experienced.”

Caldwell has since returned to British Columbia but said her family that she was visiting in California has been evacuated and she is praying for the best.

DEADLIEST FIRE IN U.S. HISTORY

The death toll has hit 59 and continues to rise with hundreds more unaccounted for as a result of two burning wildfires in California.

‘The Camp Fire’ burning near Sacramento and ‘The Woolsey Fire’ outside of Los Angeles have blanketed nearly 250,000 acres, destroying thousands of homes and causing mass evacuations near the areas.

Although some of those who have been displaced have ended up in shelters, the facilities are nearly at capacity causing difficulties for those looking for places to go and leaving some setting up camp in parking lots. A resident of Paradise who had to flee, Matthew Flanagan, told CBS News “There’s more evacuees, more people running out of money for hotels…and families, you know, they’re staying with people, but, you know, they can’t stay there forever.”

According to Fox News, over 8,000 firefighters have been deployed statewide to battle the blaze. Dry, warm temperatures with high winds have made containing the flames difficult to this point, but fire crews may get a boost soon as next week is expected to bring cooler temperatures and rain.

Remains of a van in the municipality of Paradise, California after a wildfire burnt it to the ground
(Noah Berger / AP)

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco in a haze from wildfire smoke.
(Alan Dep / Marin Independent Journal)

AIR QUALITY

On top of the flames itself and the damages they have caused, the residents of California are facing another issue. Health concerns have risen over poor air-quality as a result of the smoke from these fires. A monitoring station in Palermo, California has recorded the level of pollutants to be 13 times higher than near the Nevada state line.

San Francisco Department of Emergency Services has issued a warning to residents, particularly older adults, children, and teens, advising them to limit their outdoor exposure as the air quality continues to deteriorate. The department has stated that “the current air quality in San Francisco is RED/UNHEALTHY, but may fluctuate due to high winds affecting smoke from the fire.” The Environmental Protection Agency also has listed San Francisco at 177 on its 500-point Air Quality Index.

TRUMP GETS INVOLVED

Much like he has on many issues before, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to voice his opinion on the situation. The first reaction of Trump was to threaten to pull federal funding to the state, criticizing California for ‘mismanagement’ of their forests.

The tweet was met by negative reactions by many, particularly firefighters themselves who have used words like ‘ill-informed’ and ‘demeaning’ to describe the words from the President. The comment sparked an online response from the Pasadena Fire Association, saying the fires “had nothing to do with forest management,” while challenging Trump to “Come to SoCal and learn the facts & help the victims.”

Other wildfire experts were also quick to respond. Kristen Thornicke of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said “natural factors and human-caused global warming effects fatally collude” in these fires, said wildfire expert Kristen Thornicke of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

Since the initial tweet, Donald Trump has returned to Twitter to thank those fighting the blaze.

With files from Kareem Gouda