California Wildfires: How Did These Fires Become So Deadly?

California Wildfires: How Did These Fires Become So Deadly?

40 killed and hundreds more missing.
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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.

Timing:

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.

Vegetation:

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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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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Sorry People, But #BelieveWomen Is #UnAmerican

Presumption of innocence is a core American value

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There's a saying: "Lack of faith and blind faith - both are equally dangerous". Believing sexual assault accusers who are women just because they are women besides being the very definition of sexist - prejudice based on sex - is setting a harmful precedent on the way justice is served in this country. See, what this movement has done is changed justice from "prove guilt" to "prove innocence", an important and incredibly dangerous difference. Where is the due process that our Founding Fathers envisioned, fought, and died for?

Due process is an integral part of the reason why we have the United States of America. It was so important to our Founding Fathers that they included it in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eight (the Bill of Rights), and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. It galls me to see how privileged modern day feminists are - so privileged they seemingly forget the freedoms this country affords them, so they may live their life, expect liberty, and be unhindered in their pursuit of happiness.

#BelieveWomen is a vigilante movement - and with vigilante justice the innocent always hang with the guilty, one of the very reasons for due process. I've heard the argument it's better to let innocent men rot in jail than have rapist men walk free, an argument, despite being incredibly moronic and unAmerican, that would not be made if the accused was a man close to the woman's heart. Because with the change to "prove innocence", the assumption will be guilt, and a confirmation bias will be created. Whereas if the assumption is innocence, the jury must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has occurred. I understand that a high percentage of rape accusations are truthful (I believe the number is in the high 90s), but the small percentage that are not means we cannot, in good conscience, assume guilt. To assume would damn some men to a fate they do not deserve, a fate they would have to endure simply because of their sex. Any real feminist should be appalled at how sexism is implicitly encouraged in this movement.

If you choose to #BelieveWomen in spite of everything I outlined, that is your prerogative, but you must #BelieveAllWomen. If your father, husband, boyfriend, or son gets accused, you must #BelieveWomen and stand with their accuser. Any less and your feminist privilege will show. Vocal #MeToo activist Lena Dunham has already shown her privilege - accusing actress Aurora Perrineau of lying about being assaulted by her friend Murray Miller. When the going gets hard, feminists rarely stick to their principles. And sadly, feminism - and the double standards it always brings - rears its ugly head once again.

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