Reflections on the Northern California Fire by Jashandeep Bajaj


November 8, 2018, 6:30 am. It appeared to be a routine start to a typical Thursday morning, with most people yearning for the Friday to arrive so that they can start counting down for the weekend. For some people, however, the day would end up being everything but normal, as those living in northern California would go on to experience one of the most tragic and devastating natural disasters in the state’s history. A fire had erupted in the sierra foothills northeast of the town of Chico. This fire had begun to spread rapidly, and had eventually made its way to Paradise, a small town which had a population of roughly 27,000 residents. By 6 pm on the same day (less than 12 hours from the start of the fire), the fire had managed to engulf the entire town and burn nearly 55,000 acres after spreading 17 miles from the point of origin. The townspeople were barely able to be notified of the approaching danger and were forced to evacuate their homes.

By midday, more than 52,000 people from Paradise and the surrounding area were attempting to leave the danger zone, which caused major gridlocks on the roads. Vehicles were forced to be abandoned due to the dense smoke. In just a few hours into the chaos, 15,573 structures ended up being destroyed, of which 11,713 were residential homes. The massive destruction, chaos, and displacement had all created harrowing images which showcased the catastrophic day which was reality for those attempting to escape the devastation.

The fire had continued to burn for another 10 days until firefighters had managed to contain half of it, as strong winds gusting through the dry terrain had aided in the spread of the fire. By that time, 76 people were confirmed to be dead and more than 249 individuals were reported still missing as a result of the fire. By November 25, the fire had been able to be fully contained. The effects lingered however, as 153,336 acres had been burned down as a result of the blaze that had sparked for reasons still unclear. The effects of the fire were far reaching, as schools, universities, and several other public and private institutions were forced to cease formal operations due to hazardous air quality levels, as the smoke caused for the air to be deemed dangerous to function in as far as the Bay Area. California Northstate University was forced to close its Rancho Cordova campus from November 15-16, which has caused for major rescheduling issues for both students and staff alike.

At least 50,000 evacuees have been displaced as a result of the fire through no fault of their ow, forcing individuals to either rent out places in an expensive market or even resorting to leaving the state to other areas of the country because of the nature of this tragic situation, it is imperative that we can come together to help those displaced by the fire. As the holiday season is fast approaching, consider donating food items such as canned goods, winter clothing, or some basic essentials to a local shelter to be distributed to those affected. After all, although an entire town may have been lost due to a reason which we may never find out, we can always rebuild.