It’s been a long week here in sunny Southern California where the sky was glowing with flames rather than sunshine for days on end. Evacuees are now returning to their neighbors and AP News reports that “many Southern Californians lucky enough to find their homes still standing could nevertheless face hardships for weeks to come, including polluted air, no electricity and no drinking water.”
Power lines are down in many burned-over areas, and the smoke and ash could irritate people’s lungs for as long as the blazes keep burning.
Thousands of people returned to their neighborhoods Friday as shelters across Southern California began shutting down. The largest, Qualcomm Stadium, which had housed 10,000 refugees at the height of the disaster, was being emptied out and readied for Sunday’s NFL football game between the San Diego Chargers and Houston Texans.
The toll here in SoCal, by no means the final, as the flames are still burning in some areas, is hefty:
In all, more than a dozen fires had raced across more than 490,000 acres — or 765 square miles — by Friday. At least three people and possibly seven have been killed by flames. Seven others died of various causes after being evacuated.
About 1,800 homes have been destroyed, and damage has been put at more than $1 billion in San Diego County alone.
Across Southern California, 60 firefighters and about 30 civilians have been injured.
The L.A. Times reports:
Authorities have pledged to hunt down the person they say ignited the 27,000-acre Santiago fire that has destroyed at least 14 Orange County homes, and the reward for help leading to a conviction has grown to $285,000.
“The FBI will bring to bear all of its national resources . . . to make sure that we track, apprehend and put this person or persons behind bars where they belong,” said FBI Special Agent Herb Brown.
The L.A. Times also offers this list on how you can help.
Senator Barbara Boxer sent out the following email today to her email list:
My heart goes out to the thousands and thousands of families living in Southern California who have lost loved ones, their homes, or been evacuated as a result of the terrible wildfires that struck this week.
I flew back to California on Wednesday to see the disaster first-hand and speak to evacuees, relief workers, National Guard troops, and local elected officials about what they have gone through and what more we can do to help. Some good progress is being made, though several fires are still not contained. There is still much work to be done.
While I was saddened to hear about all of the destruction and talk to families who have suffered tremendous losses, I was grateful to see all of the federal, state, county, and local officials coming together to address this tragedy. I was especially heartened to see the spirit of Californians alive and well. Many firefighters have been working around-the-clock for more than five days. Thousands of volunteers — many of them evacuees themselves — were helping neighbors with food and supplies at local shelters, like Qualcomm Stadium. It’s this California spirit — of neighbors helping neighbors — that makes me so proud to represent this great state.
Now, in addition to fully containing the wildfires, we must also begin the process of helping all of our displaced neighbors rebuild their homes and livelihoods. Many local assistance centers have opened throughout Southern California to provide help with home loans, small business loans, rental resources, and other critical services — all in one place.
It’s been a very difficult week for tens of thousands of families in Southern California — but I’m so proud of how the people of our state have responded. Everyone is working their hearts out.
I’m going to continue to monitor the wildfires and the recovery very closely. I’ll be back in Southern California next weekend to make sure that everyone is getting the support they need to get back on their feet.