Scorched Earth, Toxic Air, Raging Fire, and Imminent Water

[Content Note: Wildfires; death and displacement.]

There are now 63 confirmed deaths due to the Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire in California. Hundreds of people are still missing. Thousands have been displaced. And millions are breathing toxic air as a result of the still-burning blazes.

Inadequate support for evacuees and people left homeless by the Camp Fire, which destroyed the entire town of Paradise, has left dozens of families sheltered in tents in a Walmart parking lot. The evacuation centers available, meanwhile, have been compromised by communicable disease.

Nicole Santa Cruz, Maria L. La Ganga, and Marisa Gerber at the LA Times: Made Homeless by Flames, Camp Fire Evacuees Face Hardship, Disease, and Desperation.
In a region that was facing a housing shortage even before the fire, some survivors were forced to seek refuge in a tent city outside a Walmart in Chico. For others, evacuation centers established outside the burn zone have become breeding grounds for disease. On Thursday, Butte County health authorities warned that an outbreak of norovirus was spreading with alarming speed, and appeared to have sickened survivors in at least four shelters.

In the days since sheets of flames sprinted through Paradise, killing at least 63 people and decimating the entire town in minutes, evacuees have endured hardship and sorrow in a surreal state of limbo. Some sleep in their trucks to keep warm and swallow tears as they imagine the shells of their homes. Others pray that unanswered texts to missing friends don’t mean what they think they mean, and they feign normalcy for the sake of their children.

"Rain is coming and these people need a shelter over their heads," said Debby Barbero, a volunteer who has been coordinating donations at the tent settlement.

As a group, the volunteers decided that Sunday at 1 p.m., they would need to shut down the makeshift donation center and tent city and try to help people find shelter in the meantime.

"This is unsustainable right now," she said, adding that it has been difficult to find shelter space for evacuees.

Matters weren't much better for those who had managed to find space in the evacuation centers.

By Thursday, an outbreak of the highly contagious norovirus had spread to several shelters. At the evacuation locations, 145 people had come down with vomiting or diarrhea, said Lisa Almaguer, the public information officer for the Butte County Department of Public Health. Twenty-five people had been hospitalized, she said.

"The number of sick people is increasing every day," Almaguer said.
There is much more at the link.

Their LA Times colleagues Alejandra Reyes-Velarde and Alene Tchekmedyian further report: Smoke from Camp Fire Sends Nightmarish Air Quality South to Bay Area and Sacramento Valley. "Since the blaze broke out last week, about 100 miles north of the capital, smoke has been pouring into the region, pushing the air quality into the unhealthy zone on the Environmental Protection Agency's index. ...'We're recommending for people to really not be outside,' said Jenny Tan, a spokeswoman for the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District. 'Limit the amount of time you are out there.' ...Even San Francisco’s iconic open-air cable cars have been pulled off the streets."

Donald Trump will be "traveling to California Saturday to visit people affected by the wildfires," and I am already dreading his inevitable use of inappropriate superlatives about the fire that make it sound like he's bragging it happened during his presidency.

We need serious leadership in serious times. We don't have it.

The fire, meanwhile, was still only 40% contained by late yesterday. Unfortunately, this is far from over yet.

If you are able and eager to help the survivors of the wildfires, charities say that they are overwhelmed with donated items and what they need most right now is cash and gift cards.

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