Northern California faces the most destructive fire in its history

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Northern California faces the most destructive fire in its history

Roxanne De Guzman- News Editor, Photo courtesy of Dan Stepenosky

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On Nov. 8, 2018, Northern California was scorched by the most fatal and environmentally destructive wildfire the state has ever experienced. According to USA Today, Paradise’s Camp Fire damaged over 239 square miles of land and killed 88 people—a death toll that is still rising.

The deadly combination of human activity and chronically poor weather conditions resulted in the ignition of the Camp Fire, which burned through thousands of structures. Its rapid spread threatened entire towns, most of which had yet to receive an evacuation warning since the fire was still in its beginning stages. The immediate damage caused by the fire was later exacerbated by flooding, dangerous air quality and a virus outbreak.

“Six years of drought, including the driest period in California history, collided with bark beetle infestations that started spreading rapidly in 2010, killing off scores of the state’s iconic giants,” said Vox writer Umair Irfan.

According to Irfan, dead trees encouraged the spread of the fire. Since these trees were especially dry, they allowed significantly more heat to reach the ground than living trees, thus dehydrating low-lying plant life and allowing strong winds to continuously drive the fire. In addition to these environmental hazards, a power outage on a high-voltage power line near the fire’s origin point is currently under investigation as the leading cause of the outburst, according to JD Morris of the San Francisco Chronicle. Flaws in equipment supplied by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), including the power line in question, have led to dozens of fires in the past few years; because of this, officials suspect PG&E to be the underlying culprit of the Camp Fire.

The confirmed death count of this devastating fire is 88 persons and rising, and the missing persons count has climbed to 196 people, according to USA Today. Fourteen thousand homes burned down completely, leading to the establishment of tightly packed evacuation centers and makeshift tent communities. These centers, all of which are overflowing with recently homeless citizens, have allowed for the spread of a heavily contagious norovirus. According to the CDC, this disease spreads via direct contact with an infected individual or objects that the infected individuals have touched.

“Twenty-one people being housed at the Chico Neighborhood Church Shelter have tested positive for norovirus, an extremely contagious virus known to spread easily,” wrote Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post.

which jeopardized evacuation efforts by threatening tent communities, according to the Paradise Post. These flash floods can induce mudslides and landslides while also spreading debris from the fire. In addition, electrical problems have become more difficult to troubleshoot due to complications with heavy rain.

spent on housing assistance, including vouchers for hotel rooms,” wrote Boston Globe writer Jonathan Cooper. “FEMA also has distributed $5 million to help with other needs, including funeral expense.”

According to the Boston Globe, the U.S. government is providing $20 million to help Northern Californians who were evacuated. U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has estimated the fire recovery costs in Northern California to reach billions. In addition, PG&E has publicly announced their plan to invest roughly 6 billion dollars to prevent future flaws in equipment; their plan consists of establishing weather stations and better communication with local and state officials.

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