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California wildfires affect members of Springfield College community

Cait Kemp

California is in an immense struggle to survive with the wildfires that continue to rage across the coast, while also dealing with the lasting problem of COVID-19.  These fires are to blame for over 20 deaths and the destruction of thousands of buildings. 

Although the fires are burning across the country, Springfield College is home to students from near and far, some being from the west coast whose families are within the chaos. Springfield College student Justin Brosnan of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. is dealing with the concerns of the fires, despite being here on Alden Street.

“My brother goes to school at the University of Oregon and he had to evacuate up there because of the fires in Oregon so he had to make a move… but in California thankfully [my family] hasn’t been affected,” said Brosnan. 

The fires are mainly in southern California, so Brosnan’s family is far enough away from the problem areas right now. Abby Wright of Manhattan Beach, Calif. is having a similar experience as Brosnan.

“It’s scary to think about it sometimes, but they are far enough from the fires to remain safe right now. Just sending all my thoughts and prayers to all the people and nature being affected,” said Wright. However, family members have experienced some effects of the wildfires even though they are not in the midst of it. 

“The other day when I was FaceTiming my mom, there were bits of ash falling from the sky kind of like snow,” she said. “Now that the fires have gotten so out of control, it’s more being cautious to do their part in not spreading it.” 

Brosnan agrees with the sentiment of fear. 

“It’s definitely scary at times knowing that a lot of bad stuff could happen… a lot of the stuff I know and love could be destroyed,” he said. “The thing that really scares me the most is the pictures they send to me, it’s completely orange, and ash everywhere. It’s definitely unsettling knowing I’m here completely fine, while there’s fires all over California.”

Another Springfield College student, Jarrett Anderson, is currently home in San Jose, California, experiencing the wildfires first-hand. 

“These wildfires are heartbreaking since they have affected communities throughout all of California. The wildfires, along with the pandemic, just makes things a lot more challenging, especially for those that are directly involved,” Anderson said. 

Fortunately for him, there are no big threats around his home. However, others are not as lucky. 

“We did receive alerts about having to potentially evacuate due to the fires rapidly spreading when they first started a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, we do know people who had to evacuate, and even lost their homes,” Anderson added.

One thing that is common – staying inside to stay safe. Sounds familiar, right? In the wake of a pandemic, the added struggle of wildfires can only make matters worse, but civilians do what all of the U.S. has been told to do the past several months in quarantine. 

“To stay safe, we simply just stayed put and remained inside. Some days were much better than others, so every now and then we were able to get out of the house, but for the most part we just tried to avoid breathing in the unhealthy air,” said Anderson. Wright agrees, saying her family took similar precautions. 

“Limiting time outside can be helpful just due to the air quality,” she said. 

In these unforeseen times, it can be hard to stay positive and continue on with everyday life. Staying hopeful is something that is important though. 

“I think it’s just the worst of the worst… but I think people are doing a good job of having a good attitude about it and kind of just taking it day by day,” said Brosnan.

As the wildfires continue to roar down the coast of California and other surrounding states, the only thing to do is take it day by day. For those trapped in the middle of the crisis now, the best hope is things come to an end soon.

Photo: Jarrett Anderson

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