Tess Hemmila–Staff Writer
The wildfires of 2018 have caused catastrophic damage to various parts of California. In July of this year, California was affected by the Mendocino Complex Fire, the largest wildfire in state history according to California’s state website (CA.gov). One of the most recent fires, the Camp Fire, also caused widespread damage in Northern California and quickly became known as the most destructive wildfire in state history.
According to CA.gov, the Camp Fire took out over 153,336 acres, 13,972 residences, and resulted in 85 civilian casualties. The fire was extremely large, causing airborne ash to spread across the region and resulting in air pollution issues throughout much of the state. In some areas, even in locations hours away from active fires, local schools were cancelled, college graduations were postponed, and people were advised to stay inside due to poor air quality.
In the wake of the fires, recovery efforts are being made. But the damage will likely take years to repair in some of the most affected areas. Cities and towns, like Paradise, have been almost or completely wiped out, making it difficult to determine when recovery will be complete.
Although Dordt College may be thousands of miles away from the flames, these wildfires affected many of the approximately 100 Californian students on campus, whether directly or indirectly.
Junior Alexis Louters said that it has been difficult to watch the Camp Fire’s chaos from afar. Louters’ hometown, Merced, is hundreds of miles away from the Camp Fire, but the high school she attended still had to cancel classes and sports practices for a week due to the poor air quality.
Freshman Bryce Louters also said he found it difficult to watch the Camp Fire progress from a distance, and recalled frequently calling his parents for updates on the fires and the air quality in his hometown.
“The [Camp Fire] has affected many lives in California and have left many people homeless,” said Louters. “Many people are still missing their loved ones, not knowing where they ended up.”
Over the summer, junior Katie Bousema said she experienced significant problems due to the Pasqual Fire. Her six-minute commute to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park turned into an hour-long ordeal after the fire crossed over the highway that she usually took to work.
California’s long history of wildfires leaves many students sympathetic to the victims of this year’s fires. Freshman Kara Brouwer recalled the time that her family had to evacuate due to the Cedar Fire. She said that although no one she knows has been impacted by the 2018 fires, “[her] heart goes out to the families that are affected.”