Never Ending Damage- California Fires Can Cause Additional Environmental Distress

Natasa Dobras, Staff Writer

Over the past eight days, the state of California became engulfed in flames. More than 200,000 acres of land have burned so far causing death to at least 41 people and damage to 3,500 buildings according to the Washington Post. While some parts of northern California still remain vulnerable to these fires, the land that has been captivated by ash can still harm civilians.

From the infrastructure of a home to household cleaners, a typical household posses many kinds of toxins that normally are not seen as a problem until they become ash. When all the toxins from these households such as plastic, pesticides, gasoline, chromium, or even arsenic for treated wood burn and become ash, they pose a threat to the environment as the ash seeps into the soil in the Earth. The level of certain toxins in soil can drastically surpass the “federal Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for soil remediation,” according to the New York Times. These toxins will cause clean up of cities and counties to extend to accompany the disposal of hazardous waste.

Around 40,000 people had evacuated their homes in order to escape the fires eight days ago. These civilians are now left without a home and great uncertainty. According to the New York Times, the amount of debris left over from the fire is estimated to be close to the amount of debris left over from the attack on the World Trade Center on Sep. 11, 2001. While residents are not expected to pay for rebuilding or damage due to taxpayer money, the estimated length of the cleanup process still remains uncertain. Rebuilding is not possible until the California Department of Toxic Substances Control purges the most hazardous areas of debris, which will not happen until the fires are extinguished and evaluation of the damage can be conducted.

The fires evidently destroyed the lives of many individuals and families in the state of California; however, the fire is only the first phase of the damage. The rest of the damage will follow in the rebuilding and cleanup of many counties and cities that ultimately can contain harmful toxins that could harm individuals and the environment.