The New Normal in California

Ken Lam, Writer

As 2020 brought such unprecedented events such as the COVID-19 pandemic to everyone, Californians have also had to deal with their own problem: to get familiarized with their “new normal.” However, it’s not the “new normal” from the pandemic which has currently cost a total of 14,911 Californian lives with 781,436 confirmed COVID-19 cases. 

The state’s current problem is now facing wildfires as they enter wildfire season. California has been badly affected by various wildfires in the past ranging from no-casualties to a large number of casualties like the Camp Fire in Butte County.

The Camp Fire was initially caused by electrical transmission lines owned and operated by Pacific Gas and Electricity (PG&E) located in the Pulga area. This wildfire alone caused a total of 86 deaths with 18,804 buildings completely destroyed.

Beginning August 19, multiple wildfires have started and are currently spreading throughout the state, especially Northern California where a significant portion has been severely affected. 

29 major wildfires are occurring in California right now, and only a few of them have been contained. Furthermore, the wildfires have caused the state’s air quality to be poor, with the tremendous amount of smoke coming from the fires covering the state in total darkness.

With the current situation, people have to be careful with their activities or else they might start a wildfire. For example, on September 5 the El Dorado Fire, started by a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device during a gender reveal party, grew so large it killed a firefighter. This accident happened because in California’s current environment trees are so dry that just a small spark from the fireworks could cause the whole forest and trees to set on fire quickly.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection further reminds the public that with the dry conditions and critical fire weather, it doesn’t take much to start a wildfire. People have to be careful and aware of their surroundings when planning for an event. At the time of this writing, the El Dorado Fire is being contained at around 67%. 

Not only has the physical state been affected by the wildfires; Californians were affected the most. The people are already tired of dealing with this unprecedented pandemic and now they have to be on the lookout for wildfires. With the ongoing wildfires, Californians are familiarizing themselves with their “new normal” which includes constantly charging their phones in order to receive evacuation orders and to communicate with others. Sometimes, people are even becoming sleepless because they don’t know when their area will be affected.

However, from previous devastating wildfires, a total reliance on technology is not the best way for people to get notified when a wildfire will be coming to their area. During the Camp Fire, many people didn’t receive any evacuation orders or alerts about the fire so they were unprepared and unfortunately became victims of these wildfires. This is why many technological companies are improving their products on alerting and giving evacuation orders early.

Additionally, not all people have insurance for their properties due to their financial status; California’s economy outperforms the nation’s economy, but its level of income inequality exceeds that of all but five states. Therefore, those with insurance and wealth are able to rebuild their houses quickly while the ones without have to wait for a long period of time. 

The people in California are now fighting on both front lines, the COVID-19 pandemic and the devastating wildfires. Thus, they have to assimilate into their new normal life in order to survive through the wildfire season and 2020.

While living in California can have many benefits like being able to witness its natural wonders, people have to be able to deal with the risks that come with it which could affect them both financially and mentally.