California Wildfires


Hailey O’Hara, Reporter

America’s most destructive wildfire in history is, as of November 26th, entirely contained, leaving a shell shocked nation behind to deal with the aftermath. The final death toll tallied to approximately 85 souls, with a high of 1,276 individuals missing (although that number is prone to wild fluctuations, and has been dwindled down to 250). Hundreds have lost loved ones, thousands are now homeless, and millions are watching in terror, with remorse and baited breath.


It is almost impossible to trace the exact cause of a wildfire of this scale back to one single incident, although experts are saying that the temperature, the drought, and human interference are most likely to blame. A single spark of metal on metal, a single cigarette bud thrown into the bushes, could be responsible for the death of 76 people, the annihilation of thousands of acres of land, and the houses that once stood there. The effects of a single spark led to complete disaster: people were burned alive in their cars while fleeing the destruction. These remains are so charred and disfigured they cannot be identified. Family members still cannot get ahold of loved ones and may never have definitive proof of their death. It is, in short, a horror show


Matt Gatenbine, Fire Lieutenant of the Olympia Fire Department has dealt with dozens, if not hundreds, of fire cases in his career. Each of these cases exposes him to the danger of fires, and the trauma survivors go through. “Smoke inhalation kills more people than burns”, Matt warns. “After a fire I make the initial contact with the occupants of a home. They are usually devastated of course”. He is not alone in his empathy towards survivors: Maia Nichols, a student at Capital High School who set up a donation drive for those suffering from the fire, says, “My dad’s cousin lost her house and farm. Lost all her farm animals because there was no time to get out of the house”. Maia goes on to say “I know there are about twenty people sharing two condos down the mountain. During Maia’s volleyball game, and later at their family owned swimming pool (Discover Aquatics), her family set up a booth to collect supplies for survivors of the fires. Maia’s father drove all the supplies down to California himself, to personally aid in the recovery mission. Even with the support of the community, Maia says “The situation isn’t good, the air is polluted, there are multiple families living together. It will take the community a LONG time to recover from this.”


Students like Maia, or firefighters like Mr. Gatenbine are not the only people who can make a difference, every empathetic soul in America has the opportunity to pitch in, including you: while survivors appreciate all donations, they have stated that money would be the most helpful, all any citizen must do is donate. Here are some organizations directly helping the victims:, and This is a problem that will take years to fix, and it is never too late to make a donation to this cause