California’s Inferno

James Rudolph, News Editor

With fires that started last Thursday, the state of California is facing the worst wildfire in its history. The fire, dubbed The Camp Fire, burned through over 125,000 acres of land and is currently only 30 percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Meanwhile, the Woolsey Fire burned through 96, 314 acres of land, but is 35 percent contained. As of now, the death toll rose to 42 people, while over 200 people remain missing. With winds slowing, the blaze is expected to slow down, but the surrounding area remains dry, creating a high possibility that the fire will spread.

The Camp Fire began in the town of Paradise in Butte County, located in the Sierra Nevada Foothills, about 80 miles north of Sacramento. The fire claimed more than 6,500 homes and 260 commercial buildings, leaving Butte County in a devastated state.

The Woolsey fire originated in first broke out in the Thousand Oaks area, which was already rocked by a mass shooting. It is estimated that the fire destroyed 435 buildings and 83 percent of all National Parks Service land in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire. The fire is responsible for two deaths in the area. While the fire is 35 percent contained, it burned through west of Los Angeles and came through the Malibu area.

A third fire, the Hill Fire in Ventura County, has been maintained to 4,500 acres of land and is 90 percent contained.

According to KQED, more than 50,000 people have fled the Camp Fire’s blaze, as weather conditions were expected to fuel and spread the fires even further. 65-mph winds off-shore from Santa Anna and 85-mph winds in San Diego County added to the fires strength. The winds are expected to decrease by Thursday. Air quality in the Bay Area remains at the “unhealthy zone,” according to federal measurements, but air quality is expected to improve by Friday.

Nearly 8.600 firefighters are combating both fires. 5,000 personnel are fighting the Camp Fire, while 3,600 battle the Woolsey Fire, which involved air-tankers scooping water from the ocean to be dropped into the fire. These firefighters are in recognizable and populated areas, as pictures surface of air-tankers dropping water and firefighters with hoses along the Ronald Reagan Highway in Simi Valley.

“This is an unprecedented event,” said Kory Honea, the Butte County Sherriff, on Monday night, “If you’ve been up there, you also know the magnitude of the scene we’re dealing with. I want to recover as many remains as we possibly can, as soon as we can. Because I know the toll it takes on loved ones.”

As parts of Butte County have been deemed safe, search teams and coroners entered the area. In addition to the 13 coroner teams searching the Paradise area, 150 search-and-rescue personnel, cadaver dogs, and two-temporary military-morgue units joined the effort. The sheriff also requested a machine to help speed-up the process of identifying DNA of human remains. 10 sets of human remains were found in Paradise, and three in the neighboring, unincorporated territory of Concow.

Meanwhile, the nearly half the evacuation centers in in Chico, Oroville and nearby towns are at full-capacity. Thousands set up camp outside the shelters, setting up tents in the parking-lot outside as they are now homeless as a result of the fires.

President Donald Trump has been “under fire” for his Twitter remarks following the star of the fired. The president tweeted, “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

The following day, he tweeted “With proper Forest Management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California. Get Smart!”

This drew the ire of firefighters, leaders of firefighter’s organizations, California public officials, and even celebrities like Katy Perry and Leonardo DiCaprio, who claimed the president is using the fire as a political platform.

However, the president tweeted out on Monday evening that he approved a request to declare the wildfires a major disaster, which give those affected by the fires eligible for different types of federal support.

The fires can be seen from NASA satellite photographs, showing the scope of how large these fires are, and how much of California is affected. On the ground, there are scenes that look like they come from a conflict zone as pictures of charred vehicles lining along highways with the air filled with heat and ash. America rallies behind California, as its citizens and firefighters continues to battle the worst inferno in its history.