What Everybody Ought to Know About the Bay Area Wildfires


Simeon Zaragoza (12th), Reporter

The San Francisco Bay Area and partly the Central Valley  was struck during August and September with an outrageous amount of wildfires. Spanning from Napa to Santa Cruz and to the Stanislaus County area, these fires affected everyday life for people. Shelia Palmer, a Kaiser Permanente Compensation Analyst and a resident of Oakland California, explains her experience of the fires.


“The smoke from the recent fires in California are wreaking havoc to our air quality!  The air quality index values have been off the charts in the Bay Area, ranging from Moderate to Unhealthy.  We have been receiving air alerts for the last 30 days, which is unprecedented for the Bay Area. On September 9, 2020, we woke up to smoky orange skies and ashes that were falling like snow, I thought that we were experiencing a post-apocalyptic or living in the twilight zone.  On the orange day, everything felt out of sorts; there was an eerie feeling when I had stepped outdoors.”


Palmer also states, “…we haven’t been able to keep our doors and windows open for an extended period of time, so our house is stuffy.  I am unable to take my daily walks.  We had to cancel a road trip that I was looking forward to. We haven’t been able to hang out in our backyard or barbecue outdoors.”


Palmer continues by saying, “…my friend and her family live in Vacaville and they had to evacuate their home for a couple of days because the fire was 1 mile away from their home.  Luckily, they did not suffer any fire damage, but their property, swimming pool, etc was covered in ashes. I was very worried about their safety and the possibility of them losing everything.”


During this time, there was a fire that erupted in Napa County called the Hennessy Fire, Shelia Palmer explains her experience of the fire.


“…we are unable to travel this year, so we had been spending most weekends on our boat at Lake Berryessa.  Unfortunately, Lake Berryessa had suffered tremendous damage from the Hennessy Fire; the fire has destroyed several of the structures at the resort where we dock our boat (our boat survived), but the lake is closed until further notice.”


Emma Murillo, a resident of Hollister California explains a similar experience like Shelia Palmer had with the fires.


“It was really scary, I remember getting amber alerts for the fires every few hours. I woke up one day to an alert and I thought I wouldn’t be able to go to work because the red area on the map was so close. I actually didn’t know that the fires were going on until  I went to my car one morning and noticed all this white debris on it, which I later found out was all ash from the fire in Salinas. That happened at the beginning of that first week, and I still today have ash on my car in the morning.”


Emma also states, “One big effect was the ash on everyone’s car and the yellow sky that was full of smoke. The sky still has a huge blanket of smoke over it and the air quality is very unhealthy. A lot of people with breathing problems couldn’t go outside because of the state of the air. I personally got a lot of headaches and the smoke made me cough a lot and feel nauseous. Another thing that really affected us in the Bay Area was the destruction of many scenic parks and hikes in the Santa Cruz and Salinas area that were places that people had gone to as a family for years. A lot of the wildlife was burned and those beautiful parks that have been there for years just went up in flames.”


Emma Murillo continues by talking about her family friends that were affected by these fires, “a few of our family friends in Gilroy needed to evacuate and a few people from my job had to as well. The fires never reached them, so their homes are all safe and they are back in their houses, but a few of them had to evacuate 2 or 3 times throughout the course of the fires. I also have friends in Santa Cruz who had to evacuate and they had to shut their church down and their whole church had to move and start going to another one for fear that the fire would reach their building.”


During this time, a lot of Northern California and the Central Valley residents were affected by these fires tremendously. As a current resident of the Central Valley, I had similar experiences like Emma Murillo and Shelia Palmer, ranging from the eerie skies to the horrendous air quality. With this said, we need to be informed and alert so we can all be safe during this wildfire season in California.