Sporadically for months, fierce wildfires spread across sunny California, ruining the scenery, homes and everything in between. While firefighting crews have made impressive progress, they have not completely extinguished the fires. As of early November, vicious flames continued to advance through California because of the dry, dehydrated climate. The aggressive blazes pushed many residents out of their homes on Oct. 31, and most people returned to find their homes obliterated to ash.
According to NBC News, “Authorities ordered mandatory evacuations of about 490 homes with about 1,300 residents.” The fires continued to swallow homes, and one firefighter was “overcome by smoke from the flames.” While Ventura County Fire Department has worked devotedly to extinguish the fires, the people of Riverside and other nearby areas of Southern California have been warned that “the fires could re-ignite at any moment.” According to NBC News, because smoke and flames enveloped large parts of California, there have been “Rolling power blackouts to prevent downed or damaged power lines from sparking new fires.”
Jeff Bowling, father of junior Anna Grace Bowling and eighth grader Brock Bowling, had many first-hand glimpses of the wildfires in California. Driving on the Pacific Coast Highway and having passed directly through the devastation of the fires in Los Angeles and other parts of Southern California, Bowling said that the damage the wildfires caused was breathtaking. Bowling said, “I spend time in both Northern and Southern California and have seen a lot of devastation from the wildfires.” Bowling continued by reminiscing on the infamous “Camp Fire” that happened in late 2018. Bowling said, “You could see the impact of the fires along the roadside and charred remains of several structures. The most impactful site was when I happened upon a street of homes that had complete devastation. Every home on the street (approximately 20) was gone.” Bowling said many of his coworkers also experienced the catastrophe of the fires. He said, “We had a few that had to evacuate, and they said it was scary. Most times they have some notice, but the fires that happened in 2018 and early 2019 spread so quickly that they had to leave with no time to prepare.” Bowling explained that although he did not see any fires on his most recent trip to California, he did see smog in the air across Los Angeles from the most recently named, “Tick Fire.” He said, “You couldn’t smell the fires, but the people I was with all said the smog was a result of the current fires.” People in every part of California, not just specific to Southern California, experienced the overwhelming effects of the wildfires.
As of last week, most of the fires in the southern areas of California had been contained. However, the flames continued to spread wickedly throughout other parts of the state. NBC said, “At one point this week, as many as 2 million Northern Californians were without power.” Bowling also said, “My company had to close one of our facilities in Napa for three days because the power company shut off power to the plant. They feared that the high winds could spark another fire.” Georgia residents Howard Woodman and Gloria Buice were vacationing in Napa Valley, Northern CA, for Buice’s daughter’s 40th birthday celebration when the “Kincade Fire” blazes erupted. The fires started to burn just a week before their departure, but they were informed that the fires were on the other side of the mountain range in Sonoma Valley, CA, not in Napa Valley. Woodman said, “We arrived, didn’t see fires or even smell smoke. Everyone was feeling good about the decision to go to California.” As they continued their travels throughout Napa Valley on Oct. 31, they grew concerned when they began to see smoke from the fires. Once again, they were reassured that everything was fine. Woodman said, “This [Friday] was our first time really thinking the fire was closer than we thought. We still did not see fire but now we could see smoke and experienced ash falling from the sky.” Later that evening, the electricity in the home went out. Many Northern Californians experienced the same power outages and were told it was a temporary blackout because of the high winds. Woodman said, “[Saturday] We were hoping we would have power when we got back to our house, but to no avail.” After much consideration, Woodman said, “The decision was made. We had roughed it long enough. No lights, no hot water and no real food, we’re going home.” Woodman continued by saying how hard it was to get home due to all the fire chaos. He said, “We had the ability and where with all to escape this disaster, one could not help to feel sorry for those who could not for various reasons.” Although the Woodman-Buice family was not trapped among the fires themselves, they feel for those who were, as they now understand the severity of the fires in California.
Wesleyan eighth grader, Brock Bowling reminisced on the first time he saw with his own eyes the product of the fires in Southern California over last year’s spring break. Bowling remembered the time that he and his family drove through the remains of a neighborhood in Malibu, CA. Malibu is just west of Riverside, CA, where most of the fires currently reside, and east of Ventura, CA. When asked to describe one emotion he felt when seeing the devastation, Bowling said, “I was surprised because I didn’t know a fire could do so much damage to such a beautiful place.” He also said, “I remember driving through the neighborhood and seeing a lady crying on her knees outside her home. It was completely gone and there was nothing but ash. I felt sympathy for her because I knew that could have been my family.” The most recent fires continued to burn through the beauty of Southern California. Bowling said he does not think the fires are containable because of the dry climate, and there is too much burning to stop it.
Junior Sydney Stirling vacationed in California last March just days after the spring fires took out some of the southern parts of the state. Stirling said that she “did not witness the fires but saw the damage and the smoky sky in the surrounding cities.” Although Stirling was not in California during the most recent fires, she said she “understands the serious effects of the fires and the large area of land that has been burned because of the fires.” Stirling also shared that she remembered seeing a distinct difference in the area of where the fires hit and where the land was still untouched and beautiful. NBC News said, “The danger would have been even worse, but strong Santa Ana winds gusting as high as 70 mph had ebbed on Thursday, allowing firefighters to get ahead of dozens of fires that ignited earlier in the week.” Most areas were at least 50-52% contained by firefighters in areas like San Bernardino, Ventura and Santa Ana, CA.
According to The San Francisco Chronicle, there is still hope for the residents of California. The San Francisco Chronicle said, “No lives were lost, and a valiant team of fire crews beat back the flames from thousands of vulnerable homes.” Firefighters have been working tirelessly to hold back the fires from further destruction, saving people and homes from the devastating effects of the wildfires.