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Returning to California during the fires

The devastating realization that hundreds of people and animals are now without homes

<p>A neighborhood in Malibu, Calif. affected by the Woolsey fire.</p>

A neighborhood in Malibu, Calif. affected by the Woolsey fire.

November is supposed to signify the start of the holiday season — Thanksgiving with family and, most importantly, lots and lots of good food. However, for California residents, November has not been all that. Instead, it’s been the beginning of one of the most devastating fire seasons in the state’s history — no thanks to the Santa Ana winds, also known as my least favorite California thing ever — that caused the fire to spread even faster and claim more lives.  

Reading in the news that two large wildfires had already started to destroy entire cities in California was all too familiar. Despite the fact that I’ve been away from home for my first year of college, I still recall when the Thomas Fire in the Ventura and Santa Barbara counties left the air ashy and unbreathable, burning over 281,893 acres last year. I had never experienced anything like it before, and after seeing videos of brush surrounding parts of the 405 freeway in flames, I remember thinking it looked like the world was coming to an end. Although it meant that school was cancelled for a few days — and right around finals season, luckily — I knew that this wasn’t some small fire that would go away in a few days.

So, naturally, when I heard about the 2018 fires — Woolsey in Southern California and Camp Fire in Northern California — blazing across the state, I didn’t think anything could be worse than the destruction caused by the fires of last year. Unfortunately, I was wrong, and returning to my home in Los Angeles for Thanksgiving is now marked with a bittersweet feeling. 

My house is far enough away from the large fires that I won’t be directly affected, but what it means for the rest of the state is devastating. People are being forced to evacuate with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and it almost feels like maybe the world really is coming to an end — even though I know it isn’t — with how scary some of the pictures of the fires look.  

The Woolsey Fire continues to burn and has killed a total of three people, while Northern California’s Camp Fire has totaled 77 civilian fatalities and left 993 other people missing in a span of eleven days. As firefighters try to contain the flames and help evacuate people, many of them have died or been injured in the process. My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones because of the fires, and all I can hope for is that each person returns back home safely.

From reading articles online, there’s no doubt in my mind that climate change is the main cause of the California fires, and the fact that President Donald Trump blames them on improper forest management frustrates me because there’s actual evidence that global temperatures are on the rise. I realize that there’s no way one state can solve the problem of global warming on its own, but it would be a little more comforting in this upsetting time if America’s own president could acknowledge why these fires keep happening year after year.

In all honesty, I truly underestimated how supportive many political leaders were in issuing an emergency declaration to provide additional resources to California, especially after Trump cruelly threatened to withhold federal aid from the state if forest management didn’t improve. Nonetheless, the outpouring of love and support nationwide has restored a little of my faith in humanity and I hope that it stays this way. In fact, my dad told me the other day that in Malibu, people were bringing in supplies on surfboards from boats to those who stayed behind to save their homes.

Parts of California might be destroyed right now, but I know that we will persevere in the end. After all, this isn’t our first major wildfire and will probably not be our last. Even though the University is so far away from my home state, Dean of Students Allen Groves’ message offering support and assistance to California residents made me realize how fortunate I am to be at a school that cares about each and every one of its students. I cannot wait to get home to Los Angeles despite the terrible conditions, but it’s also nice to know that I have a second home now at the University to look to in times of trouble. 

Amber Wall is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at