All Fired Up: A Californian Perspective on Climate Change


Forests ablaze, fires spread throughout the hills of California, out of control. What is the cause of these disasters? How many more people are going to lose their homes before the flames are fully contained? As much as it may have felt like it lately, throughout all of the mess that we’ve been in so far this year with the pandemic, the election, and so much more, we’ve had one thing going for us; everything is not on fire. Well, unfortunately, for those living in California and Oregon, this is no longer true. Because of the recent wildfires that have struck the west coast, hundreds of thousands of people are being impaired. The fires in question were started by a combination of lightning, record heat, and a gender-reveal party gone wrong. Darren Borg, of Santa Clarita, California, describes what it’s like.

“In general it’s been really hot…when it’s really hot, basically, the only thing to do is either stay inside, or go to the beach, or go to the pool, and right now, that’s not a great option.” 

Darren expresses how his everyday life has changed, and how normal activities have now become foreign: “The air quality is pretty bad. If I stay outside too long I start getting a headache or a cough. A dry cough.” For people like us in North Carolina, it may seem easy to go out, take a walk, or gaze up at the blue sky. For many citizens of California like Darren, small luxuries like these are not afforded. 


Riley and Amanda Borg, two teens in Moorpark, California, feel the same way. They mentioned that they needed to wear a mask outside so as to not breathe in the smoke from the fires. They described their atmosphere as “hazy” and that the sun was of a “bright red” color. Amanda brought up a significant point that us North Carolinians don’t normally have to worry about. Two words: dry heat. “Don’t smoke or anything like that because it’s just gonna be worse ‘cause it’s all dry out here, it’s just gonna light super quick,” Amanda advised. Many North Carolinians take for granted the humidity that comes with living on the East Coast, as we don’t have to worry about a spark catching fire in our wet climate.


Jan Cehn, a citizen of Oakland, California, also shared her thoughts on the fires. Jan showed us by way of video the eeriness of the changing sky, describing that “Everything was cut with an orange light… it looked like Mars. It was very eerie.” She even relented on the fact that “it looked like Donald Trump had contaminated everything.” She frequently shared her feelings on the progressing severity of the situation: “Because we are having less rain, and it’s drier… when it’s dry, fires just start like that- and every year we have had fires, but this is the worst it’s ever been.” Jan recommends donating to the Red Cross to help further the effort to contain the fires and help citizens.


With all that’s going on, the following question arises: why is all this happening? California has plenty of wildfires, so why is it suddenly so serious? When asked, almost every single interviewee had the same answer: global warming. “It’s part of climate change. Whatever we can do to slow down, or reverse the climate problems, you know… it’s not a hoax.” Darren Borg says. To many affected, even if climate change wasn’t what started these fires, it’s what made them so bad. Jan Cehn thinks “Global Warming… people need to be more aware, because we’re having less water, you know, so it’s drought, and some of these are started by people just doing stupid things.” Without climate change drying the area, according to Jan, these fires would not have been so easy to start, and then spread.  


With all these fires occurring, California citizens are left with the unnerving feeling that they may, at any point, lose their homes, lose their possessions, and even perhaps lose their lives. And with this knowledge on climate change’s effect on the fires, they may see their planet slowly lose its life as well. “You’re seeing places that were luscious and green once upon a time and turned to dry and almost desert,” Riley mentioned to us. Jan also added that “A lot of people have been evacuated. I’ve talked to people who know people or have family that have been evacuated, it’s just every year, almost, it’s horrible. People have lost everything.” Unfortunately, this is the reality for many people living in California. As of now, more than 140,000 people are under evacuation orders, and as the fires spread, that number increases. We ask that if you are able to donate to help the victims of this tragedy, please do. To make a donation to the Red Cross, text “WILDFIRES” to 90999 or you can call (800-RED-CROSS). Thank you.