Students reflect in the aftermath of California fires


The fires in Southern California accounted for three deaths in the state and burned more than 100,000 acres of land.

Sophomore Zoey Pittler went home for Thanksgiving break, but the journey there wasn’t easy. On Nov. 9, she awoke to learn that her Calabasas, California, home was being evacuated.

“When I heard the news, I broke down in tears,” said Pittler, an integrated educational studies major. “My mom called me and asked me what I wanted her to save.”

Fortunately, Pittler said, her home went undamaged.

“We were able to spend Thanksgiving at home. I was afraid that wasn’t going to happen,” Pittler said.

The fires throughout California are now contained — but the exact damage they have caused is still not fully known.

In Northern California, the Camp Fire scorched more than 153,000 acres, making it the most destructive wildfire in the state’s history. The fire has killed 88 people so far, also making it the deadliest fire. The search continues for the 25 who still remain missing, as of Dec. 2.

In Southern California, an additional two fires forced hundreds of thousands to evacuate their homes in both the Los Angeles and Ventura counties. The Woolsey Fire and the Hill Fire accounted for three of the deaths in the state, with a combined total of more than 100,000 acres burned.

Amulya Madhav, who grew up in Thousand Oaks, California, watched from Orange as her family and friends received the news that they had to leave their homes.

“It is so beyond devastating,” said Madhav, a junior health sciences major. “It makes me incredibly sad to see that so many loved ones had to leave their homes for the last time.”

Similar to Pittler, Madhav and her family were able to escape unharmed, with their home intact. And for that, Madhav said, she is extremely grateful.

“I know a lot of people weren’t as lucky as me, and my heart aches for those who lost their homes,” said Madhav. “There has been a lot going on this past month, but it’s comforting knowing that the fires are contained.”

In total, the Camp Fire in Northern California has destroyed more than 10,000 structures so far, and decimated Paradise, California. The town, located a little less than 100 miles north of Sacramento, has mostly been turned to ash.

On the Southern end of the state, more than 1,500 structures have been destroyed. Of those structures, many belonged to celebrities like Kim Kardashian West, who tweeted that her home had been evacuated late Nov. 8.

Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth were also among those who lost their homes to the flames.

“My house no longer stands,” Cyrus tweeted on Nov. 11, “I am grateful for all I have left.”

Other celebrities whose houses were damaged or threatened include Caitlyn Jenner, Robin Thicke and Gerard Butler. Paramount Ranch, a filming location for the popular HBO television series “Westworld” and the Bachelor Mansion were destroyed.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has said that the cause of the Camp Fire remains “under investigation,” but many are pointing the blame at Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E).

Costs for the Camp Fire could reach the billions, according to U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

“I hope that Thousand Oaks goes back to how it was sooner rather than later,” Madhav said.