Magazine News Volume 69, Issue 3

How California Fires Have Affected the Las Lomas Student Body

by Mateo Requejo-Tejada

In recent years, we’ve experienced an overwhelming amount of wildfires, seemingly more catastrophic every year as fire seasons stay for longer and the rainy seasons become shorter. In the past the fires have always been far enough to not endanger most Las Lomas students’ homes and safety, excepting smoke from these previous fires causing cancellations of sport activities and school. This year, however, has been much more worrisome to several Las Lomas Students, who have had power outages because of PG&E, or even evacuation warnings. 

“[The fire] kind of messed with our family a bit [because] we kept having to get our stuff together because we were threatened with losing power over 5 times,” said Las Lomas student Josh Vigil. “[I] kind of never knew when [I was] going to go home and not have power, and [i] have to learn how to not use power.” When speaking of the fire that occurred near his residence, Vigil said, “ it was kind of hard… [we were wondering], what’s gonna happen…  am I going to have to pack a bag real quick with all my belongings?”  

The Lafayette fire Vigil discussed occurred on October 27, coincidentally sophomore Bella Arietta’s sixteenth birthday. Arietta lives near Acalanes Ridge, which was in close proximity to the fire, so she received an evacuation warning . “I was definitely scared, I had to pack up my things, I was about to leave,” said Arietta. Arietta spoke more about how the fire disrupted her birthday: “No one celebrated my birthday because they were worried about the fire…[and] I was bummed out and hurt that everyone kind of forgot about me, but at the same time your house is about to burn down, so I don’t really expect you to give me a cake.”

Another student, Emma Altamirano, was on a flight from Utah when she and her family learned about the fire. “It was really stressful because we were far away and disconnected from everything, and so my family panicked because we didn’t have any time to pack up pictures or anything since we weren’t home,” said Altamirano. She continued to elaborate one the mental strain the fire had on her and her family. “It was really scary too, because we couldn’t go home after our flight…  when something like that happens the worst possibilities go through your head, but we tried to stay hopeful and positive,” Altamirano said. Altamirano spent two days, after coming back to California, in a hotel. “The city notified us that we could go home in the evening, [but] we had already purchased the second night at the hotel,”  Altamirano said. Altamirano’s mother was also a member of the Lafayette Tennis Club, which burned down in the fire.

Lastly, Jared de Monteiro had fallen victim to the PG&E power outages that have affected over seven hundred thousand customers throughout California. “I had lost power for…four days, and I had to use camping gear lights…” said de Monteiro. De Monteiro had to go to the library in order to complete his homework, and get food outside of his house. “I thought that I shouldn’t take things like electricity for granted because we are so used to living with it and we [as a society] are really privileged to have it,” said de Monteiro.

 As California has longer and longer hot and dry seasons compared to minimal rainy seasons, the risk of devastating wildfires will increase and experiences similar to these – and worse – may become the norm.