California wildfires, shooting hit home for students

Firefighters battle the Woolsey fire in Malibu, Calif., Friday. Associated Press photo

By Bridget Sjoberg | Staff Writer

Three wildfires have spread rapidly across California and led to the deaths of five people as of Friday afternoon, according to CNN.

Northern California’s camp fire has affected areas primarily in Butte County, located a couple hours north of San Francisco and Sacramento and containing over 220,000 residents. Paradise, a town located near Chico, has been particularly devastated by wildfire damage, “consuming nearly the entire town,” according to AccuWeather.

The camp fire ignited around 6:30 a.m. local time Thursday and has burned over 70,000 acres and is 5 percent contained,” Accuweather’s website said. Hundreds of structures have already been destroyed, but the exact number is still unknown. Around 15,000 structures remain threatened by the blaze, but about 2,000 structures have been destroyed, many of which are homes.

Two other fires, Woolsey Fire and Hill Fire, have affected areas around Los Angeles like Malibu and Thousand Oaks, also the site of a mass shooting on Thursday at Borderline Bar and Grill killing 12 people. The Woolsey Fire has led to the evacuation of over 75,000 homes and has grown to 14,000 acres, according to CNN.

The Woolsey Fire exploded from 2,000 acres to 8,000 in Los Angeles and Ventura counties in a matter of hours. Friday, officials said it had grown to 14,000 acres,” CNN said. “Mandatory evacuations were ordered for Malibu. Pepperdine University on Friday closed its Malibu and Calabasas campuses because of the approaching blaze.

Los Altos, Calif., freshman Nick Cabot has friends affected by the recent fires, and hopes that students keep California communities in their prayers.

My friends who go to Chico State and Cal Lutheran both had to evacuate because the fires were getting close to their campuses,” Cabot said. “Prayer would be appreciated, especially for Cal Lutheran, who has additionally been shaken up from the mass shooting.”

Mountain View, Calif., sophomore Sarah Caylor also has friends affected by the fires at California State University at Chico, and said smoke has begun to affect where she is from.

A lot of my friends go to Chico State and they’ve all been evacuated due to the fires. They don’t know when or if they will be able to come back, and there is potential that the fire could engulf part of the campus,” Caylor said. “The place where I am from has also been directly affected by smoke coming from the fires and has drastically affected the air quality. We’re hoping smoke can clear soon and people’s health won’t be affected by the smoke inhalation.”

Caylor encourages students at Baylor to support one another and check in with students who may be affected by the fires.

Students can check in with others from affected areas by asking them how they are doing, letting them know they’re there to help them and asking what would be the best way to support them in their time of need,” Caylor said.

Woodland Hills, Calif., senior Callie Strull has been personally affected by the fires and knows people who were forced to evacuate their homes.

My close friend’s parents were told to evacuate — she’s really worried about her parents and her house,” Strull said. “My house is getting all the smoke too. I’ve gotten 5-6 videos from my mom because you can see the fire from my house. We’ve had a lot of fires, but never anything this big and this close.”

Strull believes prayer is important in a place like Waco that isn’t located close to the fires, and she hopes that students offer support to affected students in any way they can.

Prayer is so important and so powerful,” Strull said. “One thing my pastor said is that if you don’t know what to say, just be there. Be someone who listens and a shoulder to cry on. It’s the emotional and spiritual support that will make a difference now.”

Strull hopes students also keep victims and loved ones of Thursday’s shooting in Thousand Oaks, Calif. in thoughts and prayer as well, as she was close to someone who was killed.

“Borderline was a place I went when I was home — it’s surreal to think about someone shooting there,” Strull said. “One of my friends was there that night and was killed. She was so kind and made you feel instantly like friends. She worked at a church with me, and our church is really feeling the pain. She also worked with my little brother at middle school camp and sang worship. It’s bringing the community together in prayer, though — it’s beautiful to see how such a horrible action can bring people together and unify us as a community.”