It’s been a very busy week and there’s a whole lot going on in the world, as always. Even though I wanted to talk about the Convention, politics, and where our country is at right now, there are more pressing issues right now. Not that the election isn’t a pressing issue; by all means, register to vote and get your ballot in ASAP and if you can, take it in (safely) by hand—the earlier the better.
Right now, however, California is on fire. This isn’t something we haven’t seen before and I’ve written about it before as well, except this time I’m coming at it from a different perspective.
I will be telling you some of what’s happening, but even more so, I’m sharing resources. Not only are these resources about where to find more information on staying up to date consistently as time goes on, but they’re also going to tell more about how to assist two kinds of people: those who are working to fight the fires and those who are working in the fields to keep us fed so we don’t have to.
While they are two completely different categories of essential workers, they are both out there and I think that needs to be recognized.
So without further ado, let’s begin.
First things first, where are the fires and where is the information coming from?
As of now, the fires are burning in Northern California across over 500,000 acres in the Bay Area according to Fiona Kelliher, Ethan Baron, and Marisa Kendall with The Mercury News. Though they started during the lightning strikes from the heatwave I mentioned only just beginning in my post last Friday, they’ve just kept going since. People have been moving quickly and staying informed with a reported six deaths so far; only time will tell as there is an influx of support coming in to get the fires contained.
If you’re out there in the fires or you’re having to evacuate, here are some of the major things to remember: wash your hands as often as you can, social distance, keep your face covered and keep that covering clean, avoid drink or food sharing, and clean the things you’re touching as frequently as you can.
As for how to keep up with more information on where to go and updates that you can count on, I’ve got some sources for you. This first one from Cap Radio here is updating as acreage, containment, evacuation, and acreage information becomes available on the following fires: LNU Lightning Complex (Napa, Sonoma, Solano, Lake & Yolo counties), SCU Lightning Complex (Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin & Stanislaus counties), Jones Fire (Nevada County), Loyalton Fire (Sierra County), Butte Lightning Complex (Butte County), Moc Fire (Tuolumne County), and North Complex (Plumas County).
Beyond updates, there are additional preparation resources on handling wildfires within.
If you’re looking for something more in-depth, however, the New York Times weaves into the story a bit deeper. When it comes to that story, part of it has to do with the people fighting the fires. Right now, Governor Newsom recognizes that “We simply haven’t seen anything like this in many, many years” and is ultimately asking for help from other states firefighters and quite possibly those from out of the country.
Unfortunately, the US is fighting a pandemic right now which ultimately makes this a dangerous situation both for us to be in and for others to come help us out of. Though conditions continue to change as firefighters are doing their best to up containment of the blazes, they are hoping for the best but are worried about storms coming this weekend—even Cal Fire Unit Chief Shana Jones has acknowledged that “we are not out of the woods. Not by far.”
So, for those of you outside of the fires or if you’re interested in helping, what can you do?
Here’s one way you probably haven’t thought about: take pictures. They need help tracking the fires and one way to do it if you’re experiencing any ashfall near you is stopping to “take a picture on a high contrast surface; include something for scale (coin, graph paper). Then tweet the photo with #ashfall and include location, date, and time.” Talk about a new way to crowdsource.
Another option is to donate to the people who are losing their homes, property, and possibly family members throughout these fires. Additionally, this list also includes funds for people to donate to those who are fighting the fires and the families of fallen firefighters. So follow this link here for a plethora of donation options.
There is, however, one more part of the story that I mentioned I wanted to share and that is of why—the countless helping hands—many of us have still had food on our tables throughout the pandemic. If you’ve gotten fresh produce and haven’t stopped to consider where it came from, I want you to think about that for a moment.
Because it didn’t come from firefighters, no, but it did come from another kind of essential worker. These are workers who are sometimes fighting against the need for income versus health amidst a pandemic— how else can they keep food on the table, in some cases, without hazard pay? That is the situation for many fieldworkers who have not only worked throughout the pandemic but who are also out working during the current wildfire season.
A lot of them have found themselves in the same tight positions of job losses and cuts this economic downturn put so many US people in and unfortunately, those tight positions became suffocating this week with the onslaught of smokey conditions within the jobs they did still have. For countless workers, they are not all being let go early in these poor air conditions depending on who their labor contractor is, yet “many fieldworkers are in desperate situations where they’re having to make decisions around staying healthy or making money to support themselves.”
They are having to make tough decisions between their physical health and the financial health of both themselves and their families. Add on the possibility of needing to work in order to qualify for certain benefits or documentation, and ultimately they have no choice but to be out there despite poor conditions.
Acknowledging what other people are going through is important, however, these conditions are not something any of us can necessarily change. That being said, we can still make a difference in the same way we can with the fires: donate. Through this Twitter thread here, you can read about how people are collecting school supplies that fieldworkers’ families have asked for in order to support their children and these links here and here.
You can donate supplies, send money, or even spread the word the same way you can with any of these events. Because ultimately, the power in your hands to help any of these issues find more people who can do something right now. If you have the means to make some kind of change and it’s—as my father would say—no skin off your back, why shouldn’t you?
Though the whole world isn’t on fire the way it seemed to be a few months ago, it sure is in a lot of pain and everyone needs to be supporting everyone in any way they can right now; there is no other way to get through this. We all need to be able to make it out of the fires and the sickness if we’re going to rebuild the world into a new normal together. I know that we’ve got a whole lot of essential workers out there doing more than we give them credit for and this post barely scratches the surface. If all you can do is share this post, share it.
And in the meantime, do your best to stay safe, take care of yourself, and check in on your loved ones. At some point, you’re all going to be a part of the new normal and in order to do that, you need to be well enough to be there. So do what you need to do, and I’ll see you next week. Happy Friday.