The light filtering through the window has a familiar yellow tint that I thought I had left behind in California.
The light filtering through the window has a familiar yellow tint that I thought I had left behind in California. When I look outside, the sky is a hazy grey.
I remember 2017, the first time I looked out my window and saw skies grey from smoke. It was early, and I hadn’t heard the news yet, so I assumed it was just some fog that hadn’t burned off yet. But a fire had started the night before and jumped six lanes of the freeway and spread fast with the help of the winds. Later that day, when I went outside, I watched ash fall and cover the ground. As the fire continued to spread, people who hadn’t been evacuated offered up their homes to friends and family. A student at my high school started a google doc where we could list the names of students we knew were safe. I remember all the signs and social media posts and bumper stickers reading “the love in the air is thicker than the smoke.”
Last year, I got a message from a friend saying he hadn’t realized how much the fire had affected him until he wrote about it for an assignment in one of his classes. For those of you experiencing your first wildfire right now, remember his words. When you find yourself worrying when you smell smoke outside, only to feel foolish when you realize that it’s coming from a barbeque, or you find yourself feeling nervous when you see a lit candle, know that you are not alone.
Wildfires are difficult on their own, and the current pandemic is only making it worse. Many of the side effects of breathing in smoke are similar to symptoms of COVID-19, which only makes them that much scarier. If you are able to, wear a n95 that does not have a valve. The second best after n95’s are surgical masks.
Remember to be kind to yourself. With COVID-19, wildfires, returning to classes, and more, it’s a stressful time. Try to do something for yourself this week. I recommend doing something where you can connect with your friends, whether it’s socially distanced and in person, or a video call. During the Tubbs fire, I didn’t realize how much I missed talking to my friends until I was able to see them.
Stay safe, and good luck this semester.
Environmental Studies & Geosciences