It’s been called the nation’s deadliest wildfire in a century. Since it ignited on November 8th, completely consuming Paradise and nearby communities, Northern California’s now contained Camp Fire has destroyed nearly 19,000 buildings, more than the state’s seven worst fires combined. The death toll from the fire is said to be 85 and the number of missing people has dropped to ten from originally being over a thousand.
Low humidity and windy conditions caused flames to spread quickly, sweeping through communities and causing mass destruction. Horrific images of entire neighborhoods burned to the ground have been shared along with frames of houses and cars, all that is left of them after being engulfed by the flames. Animals and pets were abandoned, many left with severe burns and various injuries that were treated after being discovered by rescuers or firefighters.
Thousands of people have been forced to quickly evacuate their homes and are huddled into shelters, campsites, and hotels, unsure if they will even have their communities to return to, as the vast majority of the buildings burned to the ground were homes.
Battling the wildfires have taken a physical as well as emotional toll on the heroic firefighters as well.
"This is our home," firefighter Ben Holliday from Butte County said. "Everyone on our task force that we're on has family here, houses gone and whatnot, so, yeah, this one definitely hit home more than any fire I've ever been on, hands down."
Smoke from these massive fires has caused dangerous air quality, putting people located at the sites of the fires at a high risk of suffocation due to the smoke and ash. The National Weather Service issued a warning to area residents about the dangers of being exposed to this type of air. But California isn’t the only place to see the heavy smoke. The smoke has been visible in New York City, all the way across the country.
CNN Meteorologist Judson Jones explained in response to many witnesses questioning why this is. "When smoke gets caught up in the higher atmosphere it can travel across the country and even farther. But the farther away it travels the harder it is to distinguish as the smoke particles disperse. Often the only way to see it is during sunrises and/or sunsets when the sunlight is refracted, showing off the upper atmosphere."
The town of Paradise, California held a vigil on the night of November 18th at First Christian Church in remembrance of the victims. This was a time for residents to pray and reflect. Many chose to bring photos or mementos along with them of their lost family members, friends, and pets. The vigil was also a opportunity for people to seek help through counselors and mental health experts. A sign at the vigil read “We will rise from the ashes” along with the two hashtags #paradisestrong and #buttecountrystrong that were created to show support for the communities.
Support for these communities has been shown here at Lincoln High School as well. Student council is holding a fundraiser to fund the holiday season for people affected, which is sure to help those in need. Any donation helps and will be greatly appreciated during these difficult times.
California’s worst-ever wildfire has left ten people unaccounted for which will hopefully be found and reunited with loved ones. We can only hope that fires like these will never again tear through California and greatly affect so many. For now, California will rebuild, and “rise from the ashes”.