California Wildfires: How Did These Fires Become So Deadly?

California Wildfires: How Did These Fires Become So Deadly?

40 killed and hundreds more missing.

Firefighters are continuing to fight the fast-spreading flames in California while coping with the 220,000 acres that have already been scorched. As of now, at least 40 people have been reported dead and over 300 are still missing due to the massive fires that are taking over California. As more than 20,000 people evacuate and over 3,500 structures get destroyed, we can help but wonder: how did this happen?

Strong Winds:

The first suspected cause for this devastation is the strong wind. The region experienced powerful wind gusts of 50mph, which made it easier for the blaze to spread. Hurricane-force wind gusts of 79 mph were reported in Sonoma County, sending the deadly flames across the county.


The second suspected cause for this devastation is timing. The fires crept up on locals in the middle of the night, when most were asleep. A brief timeline of the fire suggests the three largest fires started between 9 and 11 p.m. Sunday, according to Cal. Fire. This was around the time most residents were settling down for bed, causing some to not evacuate in time.


The third suspected cause for this devastation is dried vegetation. Officials suspect dried vegetation is fueling the flames. According to Cal. Fire, the accumulated dead vegetation increased the likelihood of a wildfire this strong. The fires torched 20,000 acres in about 12 hours on last Monday alone, and the dry vegetation was a key component.

Dry Conditions:

The fourth and final suspected cause of devastation is the dry conditions. Although October has been experiencing rain in Northern California, it is seasonally when the area experiences more of its wildfires. Since the fires have started, they have been thriving on low humidity and dry conditions.

Authorities are now reportedly urging Napa residents to pack "ready-to-go bags" with documents and medication in case they need to evacuate quickly. More than 20,000 people have been ordered to evacuate in cities across Northern California. As destruction spreads, New York native and recent San Francisco local Danielle Kerendian shared her experience with the fires.

“I woke up Monday morning with a horrible sore throat, stuffy nose, and sinus pressure. I attributed it to being a little under the weather but as soon as I walked out my door I knew something wasn’t right. The air was filled with smoke and I felt like I was at a campfire. I looked at the news and realized what was happening-- massive forest fires throughout Northern California. People were dying and over 1,500 buildings were burned down. Several of my friend’s families had to evacuate their homes, leaving pets and important belongings behind. By Wednesday it had become national news, even sparking conversation from the President. Being a native New Yorker, it was a scary experience. I’ve been in touch with my dad and he told me to wear a mask so as not to inhale the smoke. My company also sent out a newsletter about the devastation-- making sure employees stay safe and offering volunteering opportunities for those who want to help. People are donating clothes, food, and sleeping blankets to areas most affected. My boyfriend’s friend even assisted with evacuations.”

As of now, schools are canceled for the rest of the week in Napa County and some cancellations of flights due to smoke at San Francisco International Airport.

Cover Image Credit: Danielle Kerendian

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Your Wait time At Theme Parks Is Not Unfair, You're Just Impatient

Your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself.


Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios "unboxed" on June 30, 2018. My friend and I decided to brave the crowds on opening day. We got to the park around 7 AM only to find out that the park opened around 6 AM. Upon some more scrolling through multiple Disney Annual Passholder Facebook groups, we discovered that people were waiting outside the park as early as 1 AM.

We knew we'd be waiting in line for the bulk of the Toy Story Land unboxing day. There were four main lines in the new land: the line to enter the land; the line for Slinky Dog Dash, the new roller coaster; the line for Alien Spinning Saucers, the easier of the new rides in the land; Toy Story Mania, the (now old news) arcade-type ride; and the new quick-service restaurant, Woody's Lunchbox (complete with grilled cheese and "grown-up drinks").

Because we were so early, we did not have to wait in line to get into the land. We decided to ride Alien Spinning Saucers first. The posted wait time was 150 minutes, but my friend timed the line and we only waited for 50 minutes. Next, we tried to find the line for Slinky Dog Dash. After receiving conflicting answers, the runaround, and even an, "I don't know, good luck," from multiple Cast Members, we exited the land to find the beginning of the Slinky line. We were then told that there was only one line to enter the park that eventually broke off into the Slinky line. We were not about to wait to get back into the area we just left, so we got a Fastpass for Toy Story Mania that we didn't plan on using in order to be let into the land sooner. We still had to wait for our time, so we decided to get the exclusive Little Green Man alien popcorn bin—this took an entire hour. We then used our Fastpass to enter the land, found the Slinky line, and proceeded to wait for two and a half hours only for the ride to shut down due to rain. But we've come this far and rain was not about to stop us. We waited an hour, still in line and under a covered area, for the rain to stop. Then, we waited another hour and a half to get on the ride from there once it reopened (mainly because they prioritized people who missed their Fastpass time due to the rain). After that, we used the mobile order feature on the My Disney Experience app to skip part of the line at Woody's Lunchbox.

Did you know that there is actually a psychological science to waiting? In the hospitality industry, this science is the difference between "perceived wait" and "actual wait." A perceived wait is how long you feel like you are waiting, while the actual wait is, of course, the real and factual time you wait. There are eight things that affect the perceived wait time: unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time, pre-process waits feel longer than in-process waits, anxiety makes waits feel longer, uncertain waits are longer than certain waits, unexplained waits are longer than explained waits, unfair waits are longer than equitable waits, people will wait longer for more valuable service and solo waiting feels longer than group waiting.

Our perceived wait time for Alien Spinning Saucers was short because we expected it to be longer. Our wait for the popcorn seemed longer because it was unoccupied and unexplained. Our wait for the rain to stop so the ride could reopen seemed shorter because it was explained. Our wait between the ride reopening and getting on the coaster seemed longer because it felt unfair for Disney to let so many Fastpass holders through while more people waited through the rain. Our entire wait for Slinky Dog Dash seemed longer because we were not told the wait time in the beginning. Our wait for our food after placing a mobile order seemed shorter because it was an in-process wait. We also didn't mind wait long wait times for any of these experiences because they were new and we placed more value on them than other rides or restaurants at Disney. The people who arrived at 1 AM just added five hours to their perceived wait

Some non-theme park examples of this science of waiting in the hospitality industry would be waiting at a restaurant, movie theater, hotel, performance or even grocery store. When I went to see "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the power went out in the theater right as we arrived. Not only did we have to wait for it to come back and for them to reset the projectors, I had to wait in a bit of anxiety because the power outage spooked me. It was only a 30-minute wait but felt so much longer. At the quick-service restaurant where I work, we track the time from when the guest places their order to the time they receive their food. Guests in the drive-thru will complain about 10 or more minute waits, when our screens tell us they have only been waiting four or five minutes. Their actual wait was the four or five minutes that we track because this is when they first request our service, but their perceived wait begins the moment they pull into the parking lot and join the line because this is when they begin interacting with our business. While in line, they are experiencing pre-process wait times; after placing the order, they experience in-process wait times.

Establishments in the hospitality industry do what they can to cut down on guests' wait times. For example, theme parks offer services like Disney's Fastpass or Universal's Express pass in order to cut down the time waiting in lines so guests have more time to buy food and merchandise. Stores like Target or Wal-Mart offer self-checkout to give guests that in-process wait time. Movie theaters allow you to check in and get tickets on a mobile app and some quick-service restaurants let you place mobile or online orders. So why do people still get so bent out of shape about being forced to wait?

On Toy Story Land unboxing day, I witnessed a woman make a small scene about being forced to wait to exit the new land. Cast Members were regulating the flow of traffic in and out of the land due to the large crowd and the line that was in place to enter the land. Those exiting the land needed to wait while those entering moved forward from the line. Looking from the outside of the situation as I was, this all makes sense. However, the woman I saw may have felt that her wait was unfair or unexplained. She switched between her hands on her hips and her arms crossed, communicated with her body language that she was not happy. Her face was in a nasty scowl at those entering the land and the Cast Members in the area. She kept shaking her head at those in her group and when allowed to proceed out of the land, I could tell she was making snide comments about the wait.

At work, we sometimes run a double drive-thru in which team members with iPads will take orders outside and a sequencer will direct cars so that they stay in the correct order moving toward the window. In my experience as the sequencer, I will inform the drivers which car to follow, they will acknowledge me and then still proceed to dart in front of other cars just so they make it to the window maybe a whole minute sooner. Not only is this rude, but it puts this car and the cars around them at risk of receiving the wrong food because they are now out of order. We catch these instances more often than not, but it still adds stress and makes the other guests upset. Perhaps these guests feel like their wait is also unfair or unexplained, but if they look at the situation from the outside or from the restaurant's perspective, they would understand why they need to follow the blue Toyota.

The truth of the matter is that your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself. We all want instant gratification, I get it. But in reality, we have to wait for some things. It takes time to prepare a meal. It takes time to experience a ride at a theme park that everyone else wants to go on. It takes time to ring up groceries. It takes patience to live in this world.

So next time you find yourself waiting, take a minute to remember the difference between perceived and actual wait times. Think about the eight aspects of waiting that affect your perceived wait. Do what you can to realize why you are waiting or keep yourself occupied in this wait. Don't be impatient. That's no way to live your life.

Cover Image Credit:

Aranxa Esteve

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Dear White People, Your Racial Bias Is Destroying America

Ignorance lies in the heart of small towns, cloaked in whiteness and family traditions.


Here's the thing… I don't like change. No, scratch that.

Change is good. It's often profound and necessary, even if it's uncomfortable at times.

What I hate are transitions: the movements from one frame of mind or life to another.

Our country is in transition. Nothing has really changed, and I think that is the problem.

It is so easy to blame today's racism on the Trump administration, launching more hatred on top of what already exists. However, while he's most certainly not my favorite president, he didn't create what is here.

He revealed it.

He appealed to a side of people that was often kept behind closed doors, which eventually emboldened people.

I watched a documentary on Netflix called "White Right: Meeting the Enemy." I watched it in an attempt to understand the other side. Having grown up in an all-white town and fairly racist community, I wanted to learn what truly draws people into white supremacy and extremism.

The documentary follows Emmy Award-winning Filmmaker, Deeyah Khan, a Muslim woman who follows different extremist groups to try to find the humanity in them.

And I was amazed to find that while the people in the documentary had some pretty scary ideas, they were kind to Deeyah and even began to change some of their own views based on their interactions with her. Some of them even stated that they'd never really met a Muslim or interacted with one.

Others declared that they fell into extremism because they had rough childhoods. It provided a sense of belonging, and it gave them power and control.

The overall message I got was that conversations need to be had, especially in areas without any diversity at all.

I grew up in a small farm town with zero diversity. I went to an all-white school, attended an all-white church and had no interactions with anyone outside my race for most of my childhood. We had a few children come to school who were adopted and of different races, but it still didn't provide much cultural diversity.

The first experience I had with a person of color was in college. And it was different. All I knew of African Americans was what I had seen portrayed on TV.

My parents always taught me that all people are the same and have the same value, no matter what they look like. But having grown up in a place where everyone looked just like me, it was hard to really understand the value in those lessons.

Thankfully, I attended an extremely diverse college and was able to make friends with lots of people from different cultures and backgrounds. I learned so much about the world through those friendships.

The summer after college, I began dating a Muslim man from Dubai. Bandar was brilliant and kind, easily the sweetest guy I had ever been with up until that point. But everywhere we went, people would stare at us and whisper. People would get annoyed with his accent, and my own friends made cruel jokes about me being a sister wife.

All my life I knew that racism existed, but I never saw it and certainly never felt it.

It was a tough experience, one that my 22-year-old self-wasn't really prepared for. I still can't wrap my brain around people's responses to someone I held in such a high regard — and still do.

Cut to 2017. I received a wedding invitation from a friend back home. At the time, I did not have a boyfriend but had briefly started seeing someone local. When I thought I might take him to the wedding, I RSVP'd for the two of us and sent the invitation back. My friend later reached out to check and see if he was white or black – as it would dictate where we would be seated.

It occurred to me that bringing home a man of color might raise a few eyebrows to my small farm town, but I didn't think it would actually be bothersome on a level that would change an entire seating chart.

Due to his work schedule, he couldn't attend the wedding – which I think was probably for the better.

While at the reception, I found my assigned table and sat down. After a little while, a woman across from me asked me "what kind of black man" I was dating (having apparently been informed a black man would be in her presence). What "kind"? Another young lady interrupted and stated she was asking if he was a thug. Immediately, I was frustrated and wanted to get defensive.

The question was absolutely preposterous. Was I supposed to let her know that he was a college-educated state police officer with a house and a nice truck, or should I have told her he was a thug just to see her reaction? The fact that people feel bold enough to ask these questions amazes me.

The world is full of ignorance. That's what it comes down to.

Just like me, people grow up in all-white communities and live their lives full of assumptions, never having interactions with other cultures or races.

This is exactly how bias is created. The media dictates who they interview after big events, what makes the news and how that story is portrayed. And it's almost always negative to black culture.

Bias kills unarmed black men and women.

It's that gut-wrenching fear that all black people are armed and dangerous. It's the desire to second-guess every black person that walks near you. It's the urge to lock your car doors when a black man walks by. It's what emboldens people to call the police on people of color for things like standing in a coffee shop.

Bias tells you that black people are dangerous.

What is even scarier about bias is that it is often implicit. It is so deeply ingrained that people often don't even know that they have it.

It comes out with even simple things, like showing surprise when you see a well-educated person of color – as if they can't achieve something like an education.

The only way to combat these underlying prejudices is to start talking.

Ignorance lies in the heart of small towns, cloaked in whiteness and family traditions.

Racial jokes become the thing you pass down to your grandchildren, as you're out on the tractor together.

People can only fear what they do not know.

In this day and age, staying quiet only makes things worse. Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away. It teaches people that you think it's OK.

But let me say it for you: It's NOT OK.

None of this is OK.

We cannot live like this. I do not want more children to grow up this way.

If anything is going to change, it's going to have to start with YOU.

At some point, we have to stop arguing over All Lives Matter and understand that if that were really true, we'd all be working to make things right in this country. All of us.

Cover Image Credit:

Wikimedia Commons

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