Residents of the West Coast are being forced to evacuate their homes; leaving everything behind, not knowing when they will be allowed to return, or what they will return to. There are currently 11 active forest fires in Oregon alone, and they are burning at an alarming rate. There have always been seasonal fires in California, Oregon, and Washington, but what they are experiencing now is unlike anything ever seen. The Washington Post says, “…at least five people killed and dozens more missing amid blazes that have burned more than 1 million acres statewide.” Causes of the fires are being investigated, however, factors like increasing wind speeds, seasonal droughts, global warming, and vegetation are contributing to the rapid spread of the fires, making them harder to control and contain.
The unpredictability of the fires has placed an estimated 500,000 residents, or over 10 percent of Oregon’s population, under an evacuation warning or order, according to the Washington Post. When asked what her concerns about the fires were, 15-year-old Jennifer Chaffee, a resident of Grants Pass Oregon says, “I’m worried about our town. We are completely surrounded, everywhere around us is burning, and we’re pretty much being enclosed in our own town.” She and her family are one of the many who have an evacuation plan ready. The physical damages are not the only danger though. The smoke from the fire is extreme health dangers. Quinton Brown from Myrtle Creek Oregon, says that “The fires have affected me and my mom pretty heavily considering I have asthma and she has COPD” The smoke gets into the lungs and makes it almost impossible to breathe at times. The air quality is at an all-time high, with places like Happy Camp, California at levels higher than ever recorded before. To put it into perspective, the healthiest AQI (Air Quality Index) is 0-50. Happy Camp is experiencing levels above 1000. People’s everyday lives are being put a halt, even those who are not even in evacuation zones. Brown says, “My stepdad has to reroute his truck driving route and my dad cannot log because of fire danger.” There’s no say as to when the fires will be put out or even controlled, but until they are, thousands of people are unable to go to work and school
In times like these, it’s important to remember that even though we are not being directly affected by something, we can give help to those of us who are. Try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes; imagine it’s your family home being burned to ash, or your family being forced to leave your homes. If you or someone you know would like to donate to help the victims of the fires, there is a few ways to do so. You can donate to the Cascade Region Red Cross (https://www.redcross.org/local/oregon/ways-to-donate.html), Oregon food bank, (https://give.oregonfoodbank.org/give/193554/#!/donation/checkout), or any shelters or Go Fund Me accounts that you can find.