The state of California is mourning after 42 people were confirmed to have died in wildfires over the past few days.
At least 228 more people are missing after what is being called ‘camp fire’ surpassed the 1933 Griffin Park fires in terms of fatalities. Northern town Paradise is by far the most effected. The fire continues to burn with over 7000 buildings, including many homes, completely destroyed and over another 15,000 still at risk.
The Camp fire has taken 35 people thus far in Paradise and a further seven from nearby Concow.
Many of the victims are believed to be elderly or have mobility issues.
The fires have not only taken multiple life’s and caused fear and despair across California, but, as now appears regularly in the United States, has already turned into a pawn to be used in political arguments. With President Donald Trump causing outrage and confusion with some of his Twitter posts.
Such fires are common in the state due to dry, windy and warm conditions but one of such magnitude and destruction is unheard of. Fire season used to run from summer to the late autumn but officials have now warned that the fires are now a yearlong danger.
The fire is named the Camp fire as it originated in Camp Creek Road, Buttle County. The fire started initially last Thursday but grew in size and danger this past weekend.
Another two fires are currently being fought against. The Woolsey fire and the Hill fire, both of which are further south – with the Hill fire destroying homes in the affluent area of Malibu.
The fire has burned across 117,000 acres, still some way off Cedar which took place in San Diego in 2003. Cedar burned across almost 300,000 acres – yet only caused 15 deaths. This shows that while Camp fire may not be the biggest in geographical size, it’s certainly causing mayhem unseen before in terms of its ferocity and how populated the areas it’s burning in are.
As residents of Paradise looked to escape the blaze, some became trapped in houses and vehicles. Sorrell Bobrink who lives in Paradise described the mad rush to escape when speaking to the BBC.
Bobrink said: "I had to drive through the fire - it was awful. It was probably the most awful experience I will have in my life,
"It was traumatising, we will be traumatised for a long time. My whole community was traumatised - I can't watch the videos anymore because I actually went through it."
The New York Time’s ‘The Daily’ podcast welcomed Kirk Johnson, a New York Times correspondent. Johnson described the scenes of the panic in detail.
Johnson said: “The cumulative impact is really going to be either the end of that community or a moment to think about rebuilding it entirely. There was very little that looked like ‘Well here’s a place you can kind of start over.’”
Obviously it’s difficult to judge the future of the town with the fire still burning. However, as noted by Johnson, it seems the fire was so vicious that very little of any substance is left.
It’s also discussed as to why this fire has been so devastating. Camp fire has been completely ruthless in the way it has burned through anything it has come in contact with.
Johnson said: “The general nature of fires is that they don’t burn every single thing. They seek out the fuels that are handy.”
This however, is not true of Camp fire. Johnson speaks about how this is beginning to be a new trend with the wildfires in places like California.
“But if there is a new normal that is feared, it’s the kind of fire like Camp Fire.”
The controversy around President Trump’s tweets has come from his insensitivity around the fire, politicising the topic with the fires continuing to burn and bodies still being found. Also, Trump’s apparent confusion as to who is actually responsible for the care of the forests.
The President tweeted: “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”
The President then seemed to try his best to back track: “I just approved an expedited request for a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of California. Wanted to respond quickly in order to alleviate some of the incredible suffering going on. I am with you all the way. God Bless all of the victims and families affected.”
Many have reacted angrily to Trump’s words as they feel now is not the time to start a political debate. It’s likely Trump has targeted the forest management in California as the state is traditionally exceptionally liberal and is under a Democratic regime.
The issue with Trump’s tweet are that they seem to lay the blame at the door of the state. Yet, as discussed on ‘The Daily’ the forests in question are actually federal – so under Trump’s own control.
During this difficult time for Californians many are focusing on charity efforts to help those effected by the blaze. American Red Cross are a great none profit to look towards if you’d like to help. They are sheltering those who have evacuated and have an online tool for member of the area to register themselves as safe. GoFundMe, Airbnb and Google are also taking donations in schemes to help those affected. The fire is still only considered to be around 25% contained and many residents are still unaccounted for.