Since last week several forest fires have ravaged southern California, destroying more than 600,000 acres of land and killing at least 20 people. These natural disasters, though far removed from us, do have an affect on people here in Northwest Iowa.
Missy and Mary McLeish are among those whose families are being affected. Traveling home from Parents’ Weekend the McLeish parents were held up in Salt Lake City. The airports in California were shut down because of visibility problems due to the ash caused by the fires.
Mary McLeish said that the situation was sad for all Californians. “So many people lost their homes all the way down to the ground,” she stated.
A positive note is all the Red Cross and volunteer help. Mary’s fiancé, Eric Arteche, is in California helping with food and blanket drives. When asked what the people in Iowa and other states could do to help, Mary replied, “Anybody that sees somebody in need should do something, but other than pray and send money, there’s not much they can do.”
Junior April Olivares, also from southern California, explained the destruction taking place near her home: “Houses are burning, places we’ve seen throughout childhood are gone. We need to pray to God for rain.”
The students are not the only ones whose families have been affected by the fires. Michelle Howell, the Residence Director for Fern Smith Hall, has family in California. Her parents live in northern San Diego county and have a store 45 minutes south of their house. While not directly affected by the fires, one thing Howell said her parents struggle with is the bad air quality.
Also, the freeway to San Diego was closed to traffic for a short time, and several of the schools in their area are closed because of the ash in the air.
After the fires are under control and the disaster is over, Howell said, “I don’t think it will be a big ol’ mess. I think they’ll work hard to bring back organization.” Howell also said she worries about the situation in California. “I’m from there, and I feel like I should be doing something, but I don’t know.”
Many other people within the NW community are also being affected by the fires but firefighters are hoping that the lower temperatures and rain being forcasted will help them get the blazes under control soon.