On one side of the United States, water; on the other side, fire. Just days after immense hurricanes slammed into the South and Caribbean, devastating wildfires tore across California, destroying homes and taking lives.
“We’ve had big fires in the past. This is one of the biggest,” said California Governor Jerry Brown, as quoted by USA Today.
Since their origination on October 8th, the fires have raged through the state, marking this wildfire season as the worst on record, according to Capital Public Radio. CBS News adds at least 42 people have been killed and 100,000 people have been forced to evacuate. California residents fled before the wave of wildfires while their houses burned behind them. “Entire neighborhoods of Santa Rosa have been wiped off the map,” says USA Today. One elderly couple sought refuge in a swimming pool; tragically, the wife died in her husband’s arms.
First responders, firefighters, and community members demonstrated extraordinary courage as they battled the destructive flames. Wildland firefighter Paige Madrid said, “If I faced something like this, I would want everybody helping me out. I’d want them to do everything they could for me. So I’m doing everything I can do for them.” CBS News says, “Some firefighters worked days on the front line, refusing to take breaks, while sheriff’s dispatchers continued taking calls even as the fire came close to taking out their building.”
Many causes have been attributed to this severe fire season. The New York Times points out, “Wildfires often break out in California in October after the state’s dry, sunny summers. The fires are worse this year because of record heat over the summer and high winds now, which can swiftly turn the smallest fires into fast-moving infernos.” Further, high-speed winds (known as “diablo” winds) blew through California, where many people live amid forests. Thom Porter, Southern California fire chief, says wildfires are often caused by people. Small activities such as “a boat-trailer chain dragging on a road, engine heat coming off a car parked in a grassy area” can spark fires.
The lethal waves of wildfire have ruined homes, destroyed land, and dramatically impacted Californians’ lives. Here’s just a few of the numbers from the Los Angeles Times: 10,016 partial-loss residential properties; 4,172 full-loss residential properties; 728 commercial property losses; over 3,200 auto losses; 91 commercial vehicle losses; 153 farm/agricultural equipment losses; and 111 watercraft losses.
Now, since the flames are dying down, it’s time to heal. But the fire has dealt incomprehensible damage to Northern California. The Denver Post says it will take at least months and likely years to fully recover. A massive cleanup attempt is to take place next year, says the Los Angeles Times. Multiple funds have been organized to raise support for different affected areas. People are drawing together in an effort to restore their home.
Sheriff Rob Giordano said, “I don’t think we understand the level at which it is going to impact lives, and the community will be different.” Yes, it will be different, and the road will be difficult. But Vicki Nightingale, whose daughter lost her home to the fires, is confident. “The neighborhood has pulled together before, and we will again,” she said, as quoted by USA Today. California has been scorched and burned during this recent wildfire season, but it certainly isn’t defeated.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. -Isaiah 43:2
California wildfires: A record week of death and destruction.
California’s 2017 Wildfire Season Worst On Record for CAL Fire. http://www.capradio.org/articles/2017/11/24/californias-2017-wildfire-season-worst-on-record-for-cal-fire/
Recovering fully from deadly California wildfires will likely take years. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/deadly-california-wildfires-full-recovery-will-take-years/
Couple Married 55 Years Jump in Pool to Survive California Fire; She Dies in His Arms.
California’s Wildfires: Why Have They Been So Destructive?
Northern California may need years to recover from wildfires. http://www.denverpost.com/2017/10/28/california-wildfires-recovery-could-take-years/
Losses from Northern California wildfires top $3 billion; 14,000 houses destroyed or damaged. http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-california-wildfire-insurance-claims-20171031-story.html
California wildfires: ‘We’ll figure it out,’ mother says amid ruins.