Last Sunday, October 8th, began like any other day in Santa Rosa, a large town in the middle of Napa County, California. The region, famous around the world for its wines and warm California weather, was experiencing its usual October heat wave. But heat waves in California are also known to cause something else: wildfires! One such wildfire crippled the region Sunday night and continues to burn almost a week later. Smaller wildfires around the area have also caused devastation, forcing tens of thousand of people to evacuate their homes.How did the fires start?
It’s too early in the investigation to know for sure, but it was recently said by the director of California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, that ninety-five percent of fires in California are started by people. Other factors played a role in spreading the fires around Napa—strong winds, dense vegetation, and dry conditions contributed as well.
Hundreds of homes have been damaged or destroyed completely, and the region must deal with another reality: large wineries and farms that were burnt to the ground will leave businesses with years to recover and many workers without jobs. The fire marshal of Santa Rosa said, “We’re a resilient community. We’re a resilient county. And we’re going to get through this. The fire department isn’t here just to put the fire out. We’re in this one for the long haul.”
The fire department and thousands of firefighters are working day and night to put out the fifteen fires in the region. The damage to properties is being assessed by insurance companies, city planning departments, and business owners. Telecom companies are providing support to people who have lost internet and cellphone connectivity due to downed power lines and burned cellphone towers. Cities and communities around the region are working to bring relief to those who have been displaced by bringing in supplies, providing transportation, and even offering places for families to relocate as they wait to hear about their homes. For some areas, it will be at least another week before they can return home to access the damage and begin to rebuild.
The winds blowing from nearby Sonoma have been strong, spreading smoke for miles beyond the affected area. San Francisco, among other cities, issued a warning to schools and the community to avoid outdoor activity and play. The air quality in the region has reached record levels of fire-related pollution.