When I think about California, I picture palm trees and a roaring ocean glistening under blue skies.
Since last Thursday, however, all I can picture is fire.
In areas of Northern and Southern California, wildfires have demolished homes and displaced more than 224,000 people, and over 600 are still unaccounted for, CBS News reported Friday.
Even with evacuation orders and first responders fighting flames, 66 people have died.
In an interview with Law, Lisa Vasquez, a resident of Paradise, California, for 45 years, said she feared her neighbors, many of whom are elderly, disabled and did not own cars, did not make it out alive. She also expressed her worry for Iraq war veteran and best friend Terry Woodcox, who ignored evacuation warnings “because his severely autistic son, Damion, refused to leave their home.”
“I’m so sorry for my community,” Vasquez told Law. “It’s going to be a ghost town; we’ve lost so many people.”
The Camp Fire has also left Paradise, where most of the human remains have been found, in ruins. It “burned down more than 6,700 homes and businesses in the town, more structures than any other wildfire recorded in California,” according to CNBC.
Unfortunately, Vasquez’s home is part of those statistics. In addition, according to Law, “Many of her family members, including two of her brothers, also lost their homes in the fire.”
“Honestly, it [Paradise] looks like Armageddon,” Brian Rice, chairman of the California Fire Foundation, said last Friday. “There’s a part of me that wonders if this city will come back. It is that devastating.”
The Woolsey Fire, which accounts for the other three deaths, continues to threaten lives and communities in affluent areas of Southern California.
According to The New York Times’ Niraj Chokshi, over the past week, the “inferno has killed two people, forced mass evacuations and destroyed hundreds of structures, affecting thousands of residents, including the many celebrities who live in wealthy enclaves west of Los Angeles.”
In Malibu, for example, actor Gerald Butler’s house has been torched by the Woolsey Fire.
On Monday, he shared an image of a scorched truck and a “burned-out section” of his home on his Instagram account, accompanied by this caption:
“Returned to my house in Malibu after evacuating. Heartbreaking time across California. Inspired as ever by the courage, spirit and sacrifice of firefighters.”
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Returned to my house in Malibu after evacuating. Heartbreaking time across California. Inspired as ever by the courage, spirit and sacrifice of firefighters. Thank you @LosAngelesFireDepartment. If you can, support these brave men and women at SupportLAFD.org. Link in bio.
The fire has also destroyed the homes of singers Miley Cyrus, Neil Young and Robin Thicke, and actors Martin Sheen and Shannen Doherty. But despite the destruction of their homes and other valuables, these celebrities have reminded their fans and followers that these things can be replaced, whereas human lives cannot.
“There’s little chance that our house has survived,” Sheen said in “an interview with a local television news reporter,” according to Chokshi. “But we haven’t lost any lives, so we got that to be grateful for.”
“My house no longer stands but the memories shared with family & friends stand strong,” Cyrus said Monday on Twitter. “I am grateful for all I have left.”
Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted Nov. 9 that her “Horses are finally safe. My children are safe. My home is in jeopardy but… everything with a heartbeat is safe. Thank you all for your concern.”
Horses are finally safe. My children are safe. My home is in jeopardy but… everything with a heartbeat is safe. Thank you all for your concern.
To those who insisted on still being hurtful because our political affiliation is different, you are what is wrong with the country.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) November 9, 2018
Although these celebrities are presumably able to replace their homes, cars and other material possessions with little to no financial strain, others are not as fortunate.
With that in mind, here are a few nonprofit organizations looking for donations, according to the New York Times’ Julia Jacobs:
The American Red Cross has shelters opened across California to assist evacuees. It also provides an online search tool that victims can use to register themselves as safe in case friends and family are looking for them.
California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund: Established 15 years ago, this foundation offers aid to those affected by the California wildfires. According to Jacobs, “Grants have gone to rebuilding homes, providing financial and mental health assistance and helping those affected to get medical treatment.”
The United Way of Greater Los Angeles and the United Way of Northern California are also seeking monetary donations to assist their respective communities, according to CBS News. Already, the United Way of Northern California has provided emergency cash grants to those who have lost their homes, and the United Way of Greater Los Angeles has created a disaster relief fund.