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The Connection between the Fire and Us
Written by Youngha Lee | Published. 2021.01.11 17:47 | Count : 1639

Ashes blanketed the sky with darkness. The smell was disgusting, and many people had to flee to the seashore in horror. While escaping to the south near the sea, I was wondering why California has so many wildfires. Wildfires have mainly two causes: artificial and natural events. The former consists of forgotten cigarettes or matches whereas the latter is based on natural conditions, such as strong wind, or dry weather.

On October 26, the strong wind brought a devastating wildfire to Irvine. At school, no one recognized that the fire was serious until the fire consumed the parking lot located right next to the school. The burning smell permeated the air, and when I looked up to the sky, it began to darken with ashes. Soon, the school ordered the students to return home. On the way home, I saw fire trucks and helicopters moving in the direction of the fire to protect the forest and people. I immediately turned on the TV when I got home to check the updates on the fire and soon received a message that I had to evacuate from Irvine. Everyone in Irvine got this message and fled to the south and west, where the fire could not reach. Half of the city emptied, and only the sirens of police cars and fire engines stood out in the dark. The evacuation lasted for a few days, putting my family, friends, and me in genuine fear. 

[Firefighters putting out the fire on the mountain. Photo Credit: LAist]

This fire was named the Silverado Fire, which burned 12,466 acres and caused 90,000 people to evacuate. The manpower and technologies that were involved in protecting the city from this fire were: 1 helicopter, 704 firefighters (in 10 crews), 3 water tenders, and 85 fire trucks. However, despite this effort, five structures were destroyed, nine were damaged, and unfortunately two firefighters got injured while extinguishing the fire (Cal Fire). Moreover, the air pollution was serious. Ashes, dangerous aerosols, and poisonous gases were observable with the naked eye threatening to cause damage to our lungs. 

[Firefighters putting out the fire near the town. Photo Credit: Lara Cooper ]

To better understand the day of the fire, I interviewed a local resident, Connor Kim, a peer of mine at school. I asked Connor about the situation during the wildfire, and he replied that it was pandemonium in the classroom, with everyone running away from the dark, red sky. He continued, “From the moving car, I saw the fire consume the grass, flowers, and forest.” He had never experienced a chaotic situation like this, but he was impressed by the firefighters’ efforts.

[Interview with a peer from my school. Photo credit: Youngha Lee] 

I then asked how rapidly the fire spread, and Connor told me that it seemed like the area of the fire doubled in size in the blink of an eye. Whenever he took his eyes off the fire for a short moment, the fire spread quite far. He continued, “I was really scared because of this fire.” I also asked him whether the fire caused him any unpleasantness. He said that the ashes had the most disgusting smell that he had ever smelled. When these ashes filled up the school, he felt really uncomfortable.

I think that human beings can never defeat Mother Nature. Like the Silverado Fire, fires of natural causes inflict tremendous damage on humans. Due to this fire, the community was paralyzed for a week, and all the classes in my school were replaced with asynchronous classes (pre-recorded lectures that do not require real-time attendance). Also, it took days for the fire to be completely extinguished and more than a week to clean up the debris. There were not many casualties this time, but the fire terrorized many people. Although I may not be able to predict or prevent fires in the future, I think I will have to evacuate and respond quickly.





Youngha Lee
Grade 11
Crean Lutheran High School

Youngha Lee  student_reporter@dherald.com

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