News

California fires stir students’ memories

Officials said that the wildfires in California this year have been the third-worst in state history.

As of last Tuesday the fires have claimed 270,000 acres and more than 1,400 buildings burned to ashes, despite the efforts of 8,800 firefighters, according to the New York Times.

Although this year’s fires are among the worst in history, the fires from 2003 and 2007 had more destruction, according to NBCnews.com.

Bethany Moberly, senior from San Diego, said she remembers those deadly fires.

“I was in middle school when these fires were burning, but all schools were cancelled because the air quality was so bad that we were not supposed to go outdoors without a face mask,” Moberly said.

She recalled the fires from 2007 with memories of terror and fear. Moberly watched as her high school was engulfed. And although her house was unaffected, some of her friend’s houses were burned.

“When you walked outside you would have ash all over you. It was insane. The flames were bright red and the smoke was so dense, yet we all just sat and watched the hills turn black,” she said.

When the fires traveled around her town, Moberly said they were put on an evacuation watch. She and her family heeded the advice, and she feared that her cat, Bozo, would be lost to the flames.

After the fires were contained in 2007, “My family drove up to Descanso, a town up in the mountains and just looked at how black the entire land was,” Moberly said. “I got out of the car and poured my water on some of the smoldering brush, but a firefighter patrolling the area told us to leave for our safety.”

Despite the damage, Moberly said the firefighters were thorough in containing the fires and performing their job. As for the fires this year, she believes most are caused by lightening and said, “the best thing we can do is send up a prayer.”

She said it was amazing to see many churches, community centers, and even stadiums opened up to provide housing to people with lost homes or evacuees during the 2007 fires.

“Although fires are terrifying and unpredictable, they have a way of uniting neighborhoods,” she said.

Ben Tabor, senior from Helmet, Calif., had a different experience with the fires.

Although he did not personally witness them, Tabor said, “I have a family friend that was engaged to a fire fighter several years ago and he died in a fire before they were married.”

In addition, he said that fires threatened his church’s camp growing up, a camp by Hume Lake.

“The camp had a big “pray for Hume” slogan,” he said. “I went to the camp several times and the camp has been a big part in my church and in many kids lives.”

“One fire that was close to my home several years ago ended up producing so much ash and smoke that we were dismissed early from school and didn’t go to school the next two days,” Tabor said.

He believes that the state has plans in place when big fires occur to help those who have lost their homes.

“However, with California being in a big drought and with all the restrictions on water usage, many people are forced to buy fire insurance based on where they live,” Tabor said. “My family for instance lives on a hill near a lot of shrubbery and we must buy fire insurance. So many of the homes may [also] be covered.”

Tabor said he believes that the government and churches should rally in support and do as much as possible to help these people get back on their feet.

Groups of 800 to 1,000 people have fled one fire’s path and poured into the Napa County Fairgrounds, according to the New York Times.

“Evacuees who had fled the scorched Lake County communities of Middletown, Cobb, and Hidden Valley Lakes, northwest of Sacramento, told one another their stories of racing the flames and of the last times they had seen their homes,” New York Times reported.

“I am not sure what the situation is currently for the fires burning in California but I hope everyone is getting as much support and help as possible,” Moberly said. “I know that when huge fires are going through a place, firefighters never get any rest and work 24/7 to protect the people being affected by the fire.”