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California Wildfires: Deadly and Devastating

The California Wildfires began on Nov. 8th in the Sierra Nevada Foothills in Northern California. An updated article from The Washington Post reported that the fire killed 85 people, destroyed 14,000 residences and charred an area the size of Chicago. However, authorities expect the death toll to continue to rise; currently, 249 people are still unaccounted for. Crews are still sifting through the ash of what used to be buildings, searching for remains.

While the rain did help to abate the fire, according to CNN, local authorities say the rain causes a whole host of problems, ranging from floods to mudslides to debris. The running debris and floodwater can be powerful enough to destroy culverts, roads and buildings, even reaching miles away from affected areas.

Many big and local charities, along with the government, have been alleviating the pain and suffering of the wildfire victims. One of these charities is called the Convoy of Hope. Their distribution center is in Springfield, MO. In response to Northern California’s Camp Fire, Convoy of Hope has shipped more than 300,000 pounds of supplies to California and has served more than 16,000 individuals. Supplies being distributed by Convoy of Hope include: food, water, blankets, hygiene items, cleaning supplies, masks, blankets and cots.

AirBNB, a popular service where people can rent out their homes to travelers, has an      
Open Homes program though which volunteers can donate a temporary place to live for survivors. The California Community Foundation is also assisting with long-term recovery efforts and people who have become displaced and/or unemployed because of the fires.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported, “President Trump weighed in Saturday on the
Camp Fire in Butte County… [and is] blaming it and other disastrous blazes burning in the state on “poor” forest management.” On Thursday, Nov. 8th, California asked Trump and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to issue an emergency declaration that would help clear the way for federal aid in the Camp Fire zone and other places in California where the fires are burning. That request was granted the next day.  

Many students at Queens College feel that the government isn’t doing enough to help the
victims of the fire. Amber, a freshman and a computer science major, says that the government should provide temporary homes for up to a six month grace period to help them look for jobs. She also mentioned that they should also implement a process to replace lost items and a way for victims to re-enter the workforce for those without insurance. She advised those who don’t know what the best way to help is to donate to smaller organizations.

The authorities haven’t found the cause of the fire yet, but there are many speculations. CNN has stated that a lawsuit was filed on behalf of 22 victims of the Camp Fire, alleging the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. was responsible. The company responded with a power outage that same day. The Business Wire reported that the lawsuit was filed by a coalition of law firms known as the Northern California Fire Lawyers. The lawsuit alleges that PG&E was negligent in failing to maintain its infrastructure and properly inspect and manage its power transmission lines, which ultimately caused the Camp Fire to ignite. PG&E will be hit badly if they are found to be liable for the fire, according to CNN. The damages alone could cost up to $6.8 billion, according to a report from Moody’s this week. PG&E may not have enough to cover the cost that, let alone any legal fees or fines it might have to pay. The utility could need another bailout from the state of California if it’s found to be liable for the Camp Fire.

 

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