Illustration by Gemma Fa-Kaji
By August 24, at least sixteen fires were burning through California, with more having just been contained, according to the Cal Fire website.
Two of these fires are the Carr fire and the Mendocino Complex fire, which have together destroyed more than 3100 buildings by August 20, according to Keith May, Berkeley Fire Department’s assistant chief of special operations and public information officer. The Carr fire, located by Shasta County and Trinity County, is also placed among the top ten most destructive fires in California history by Cal Fire.
This is not new. According to May, many of the fires in the past couple of years are some of the most destructive that California has seen. “I have been in the fire service for about nineteen years and I have noticed that each year, fire season appears to be worse than the previous year,” said May. “There has always been a fire problem and whenever humans, homes, and businesses come in contact with any forest or wooded area, that problem will increase,” he added.
Camp Tawonga, a Jewish summer camp based in San Francisco, had to close mid session on July 31 after their air quality, worsened by smoke from the Ferguson Fire, bad enough that the Tuolumne County Health Department necessitated that campers and staff evacuate, according to Ben Simrim, the registrar and camper administration coordinator to Camp Tawonga. “It was the first time in the agency’s 93-year history that we have had to evacuate in the middle of a session,” Simrim added.
In an effort to keep up camp spirit, Tawonga organized camp-like events, such as talent shows and Shabbat dinners for campers and staff back home in the Bay Area.
Berkeley and other Bay Area firefighters have gone to help contain some of the fires over the summer. Berkeley has had firefighters fighting the Carr fire, Pawnee fire, Donnell fire, Steele fire, Ferguson Fire, and were still fighting the Hirz fire on August 20, according to May.
Additionally, Berkeley sent out Fire Line Paramedics to aid firefighters on the scenes of larger wildfires, in case of injury.
The Alameda County Fire Department sent personnel to recent fires as well. “Firefighters have most recently been deployed to respond to the Carr Fire, Mendocino Complex fires and the Stone Fire,” said Aisha Knowles, public information and community relations officer to the Alameda County Fire Department.
When sending out resources and personnel to the recent fires, May said, it’s important to make sure there are some left back. “We are strategic in our decisions on whether to send out personnel as we have to be certain we can continue to staff our own city should there ever be a wildfire in the Berkeley area,” said May.