Extinguishing the fire in more ways than one

Hundreds of businesses and homes have vanished in what seemed like an instant. The Valley Fire burned more than 75,000 acres in only a matter of days. 

The growth of the fire in such a short period has left citizens bewildered. With dry temperatures and lack of rain, the fire took an upper hand and spread throughout Lake County. 

Unfortunately, with the reality of climate change, California will undoubtedly see more destructive fires like this in the future. With Gov. Jerry Brown calling fires “the future” of California, it puts even more pressure on citizens of not only California, but the rest of the United States, to start taking drastic measures in reducing water consumption. 

Yes, each year fires are started for reasons that are uncontrollable, but the rate at which they are spreading and the amount of destruction is unprecedented. 

With 1,500 more fires than usual for this point in the year, it begs the question of whether California residents are doing enough drought mitigation. 

The reality of this tragedy is stark. As of Monday, the fire had claimed nearly 18,000 structures, including roughly 1,200 homes, blackened nearly 76,000 acres and claimed three lives. Of the three deaths so far, all were senior citizens including 72-year-old Barbara McWilliams who suffered from multiple sclerosis. 

Unfortunately because the fire moved so quickly, some evacuations were too late. On the positive side, many people on the North Coast came together to help those who were victimized by the fire. 

The Napa County Fairgrounds have hosted hundreds of evacuees and volunteers over the past week. 

Tents and portable toilets line the parking lot and volunteers have prepared three meals a day for evacuated residents. 

Rebuilding both physically and emotionally, however, will take time. The world has seen the lasting impact many disasters have left just in the past decade. 

It’s important to remember that help will continue to be needed even after the fires have been extinguished. Hundreds of people will be returning to their homes without any of their belongings, many returning to only ash.

Cal Fire has officially ranked the Valley Fire the third worst in California history. After the skies have cleared and the community has long forgotten about the fire, what will be its legacy? The destruction of the Valley Fire has been absolutely devastating and if California keeps up with the drought, another record-breaking scorch is possible in the near future. 

Coming to the realization that our carbon footprint is affecting the lives of not only the people in Lake County, but the rest of the world is challenging. 

To take that step back is a difficult thing to do but it’s one California must take to prevent fires, like the Valley Fire, from happening in the future. 

One thing is for certain; in times of crisis, communities will band together for a cause. Donation centers have been set up throughout Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park and residents are doing their best to help out where they are needed. 

The hundreds of volunteers that have been working tirelessly to make sure that evacuees are being taken care of this past week, have shown just how much the general public can come together to aid those in need. 

For more information on giving back to Lake County, visit LoveLakeCounty.org.