The Woolsey Fire has claimed 97,620 acres of land since it began on Nov. 8, taking the lives of two individuals from Los Angeles County. Starting in Simi Valley, the Woolsey Fire forced the evacuation of the city of Malibu and parts of Los Angeles and Ventura County. The fire destroyed an old West movie set at Paramount Ranch — which had been in use since the 1940s — and the home of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Neil Young. The Woolsey fire also got close to Thousand Oaks, one day after the mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill on the night of Nov. 7, in which 12 people attending the Thousand Oaks bar were killed.
According to ABC News, President Trump declared a state of emergency for California on Nov. 9, allowing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist local emergency response personnel in combating the fire. Soon after the declaration, Trump took to Twitter, posting: “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more [Federal] payments!” California governor Jerry Brown responded to the tweet in a press briefing. “Managing all the forests everywhere we can does not stop climate change,” said Brown, “and those who deny that are definitely contributing to the tragedies that we’re now witnessing, and will continue to witness in the coming years.”
According to www.fire.ca.gov — California’s official firefighting website — 3,685 fire personnel have been working to help combat the fire, and the fire has been contained 47 percent. “Due to extreme fire behavior, firefighting efforts have been focused, and will remain focused, on the protection of life and structures,” the website states. “Favorable overnight weather conditions contributed to minimal fire growth, which allowed crews to reinforce containment lines. Crews will continue to be challenged with steep terrain, limited access, and extreme fire behavior. Moderate to strong Santa Ana winds will continue across the area throughout the evening and peak into tomorrow morning.”
These are winds that, according to ABC News, are expected to reach 70 miles an hour and threaten to spread the fire, ash, and smoke further across the state to nearby cities, including Whittier. Poets received an email via Student-L from Associate Director of Residential Life Joseph Melendez on Nov. 11. “The South Coast Air Quality Management District has issued a smoke advisory for most of Los Angeles County and for parts of Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties,” wrote Melendez. “Officials advise residents of these areas to stay indoors whenever possible, especially children, the elderly, and other groups with vulnerable health.”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that poor air quality could make breathing harder for those with asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, as well as increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Melendez advised students to stay inside and use the resources on-campus available to them, such as the air conditioned lounges in residence halls. Students can call the 24-hour nurse hotline for non-emergency health inquiries at 562.464.4548. In an emergency, students are encouraged to call Campus Security at 562.907.4211 or call 911. In the event of a fire at Whittier College, students are encouraged to evacuate the college’s buildings and follow guidance from local authorities and Campus Safety. “When in doubt, evacuate,” states the Emergency Preparation and Response section at www.whittier.edu/campussafety/emergencyprocedures.
The Metaphonian Society is hosting a donation drive in an effort to help firefighters and locals in need. They are accepting donations of diapers, blankets, water, non-perishable food items, toiletries, and cash. Item donations can be dropped off at the Office of Equity and Inclusion from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and monetary donations can be dropped off in front of the Campus Inn from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. until Nov. 16.