Wildfires and Toxic Rain

Devon Swanepol

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A couple of weeks ago, California experienced some of the most deadly fires in its entire history. The Camp Fire up north in Paradise and the Woosley Fire in Southern California have left people stunned, homeless, and many hopeless. While some are being cared for by organizations such as the American Red Cross, there is a growing concern that is far out of our control.

The rain that California received this past two weeks was just what firefighters needed to put out these fires. However, this rain in many ways has actually been extremely harmful to the health of the public in communities such as our own. According to public physician, Dr. Tilman Ruff, “the rain is a concern. Areas that have burned are denuded and the rain is…distributing toxic materials in new ways.” Another concern is that lots of California’s vegetation is covered in ash which contains radioactive and toxic chemicals including mercury. The conditions, though far better than the terrible air quality that was seen just a few weeks ago, still are very dangerous. Children and pets are most vulnerable to all of the chemicals that have littered the streets of communities throughout the state. Santa Cruz in particular has been one of the most affected areas, as we received lots of rain with winds that hovered near 30mph.

Despite the problems that the rain has caused, we are in a much better situation than we were just two weeks ago. The ongoing fear about fires has finally been put to rest for the year. From experience in having to evacuate my house two years ago and having another fire scare just this past month, I certainly am happy to see rain again. As we transition from fire season to flood and mudslide season, we still have to remember to be careful in the decisions we make, and ultimately stay safe!