Wildfires have ravaged northern California, leaving behind a wake of death and unimaginable devastation. With many blazes still burning, the state is struggling to manage the resulting wreckage. Entire neighborhoods have been razed, and thousands displaced due to evacuations.
A perfect storm of factors allowed these flames to grow into full-fledged wildfires. Strong hurricane-force winds and lots of very dry vegetation left over from a long drought fueled the blazes. The first three major fires were also started at night, catching many people off guard.
At least 245,000 acres and 5,700 buildings have been destroyed by these wildfires. Thousands of people are without homes, and business owners are struggling to pick up the pieces of their livelihoods. The estimated cost of the damage, according to State Senator Mike McGuire, is around three billion dollars. It will take quite a while before the state can recover from this.
The estimated death toll for wildfire-related deaths is now at 41. Authorities are struggling to identify some victims with the most severe burns. Most heartbreaking are the stories like those of Charles and Sara Rippey, who had been married for seventy-five years. Charles tried to save his wife, who was left paralyzed five years ago due to a stroke, but both were killed in the fire.
As if the effects of this disaster weren’t terrible enough already, the air quality in the San Francisco Bay area is now the worst it has ever been. People who had been relatively unaffected by the fire so far, now rely on masks that filter out particulate matter to breathe when they leave their homes.
Statistics of a tragedy always never seem to reach most of the readers of such articles. But as hard as it is to grasp, we need to realize that these victims are people. These are nearly six-thousand people without homes, without anything but the clothes on their backs. These are over two-hundred individuals who are still missing, over forty dead. These were human beings with lives just as complex as yours; they don’t deserve to become just another statistic that some politician ends up waving around, trying to win an argument. Have some empathy, do whatever you can to help these victims. Though the fires will eventually be extinguished, the state of California will feel its effects for years to come.