Orange skies and smokey air paint an apocalyptic scene throughout the country as wildfires continue to burn uncontrollably. With over two million acres burned in California alone, the fires are putting unprecedented strains on everyone.
As the death toll climbs, hundreds of people have no choice but to evacuate from their homes with nowhere to go, forcing many into homelessness.
“I’m 55 years old; I’ve never been homeless,” a recently evacuated California resident shared through tears. “It’s gonna be rough.”
As a new homeless population emerges, the existing homeless population faces the environmental challenges they are all too familiar with. Despite the constant advisories to stay inside due to the hazardous, smoke-ridden air quality, shelter is simply not an option for the homeless.
Susana de Sant’Ana, a woman that has spent the past couple of years battling various lung-related health issues while on the streets, has been among those hit hardest by the wildfires.
“My lungs are suffering, but my heart is suffering too,” Sant’Anna revealed. “I don’t know what to do. The stress – the stress will kill you.”
After a recent visit to California, President Donald J. Trump turned to poor forest management to account for the crisis, claiming that the fallen trees and dry leaves created the ideal conditions for the fires. However, many environmental experts said the situation is an inevitable consequence of climate change. This past month, Governor Gavin Newsom of California has even committed to releasing plans of action against climate change.
“There are no Democratic thermometers and Republican thermometers,” Newsom said. “It’s a question of whether or not you acknowledge facts.”
In addition to climate change, several other factors also account for what has been named one of California’s worst fire seasons. A gender reveal pyrotechnics performance is to blame for the El Dorado Fires, which have grown over 10,000 acres. A diesel-soot spewing car is the prime suspect for the cause of the Apple Fires in Southern California, which have spread over 25,000 acres. Ultimately, people are the primary cause of the raging fires.
California is not the only state hit by disaster- fires seem to be just as bad in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. With wind speeds increasing, several Oregon neighborhoods have been plagued with flames.
“Without question, our state has been pushed to its limits,” stated Oregon Governor Kate Brown.
Smokey skies have even gone as far as the Midwest. In Michigan, residents have experienced the same smokey fumes and orange skies as many West Coast cities.
In combination with the pandemic, it is crucial to prioritize respiratory health. The harmful COVID-19 and smoke duo have created a “layering effect,” as described by Dr. Mary Prunicki, the director of air pollution and health research at Stanford University’s Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research.
Several cities have gone as far as shutting down parks and beaches to ensure people stay indoors. With unparalleled levels of air pollution plaguing skies, weather adversaries are urging everyone to check the air quality before spending time outside.