I Lost My Home In The Woolsey Fires

I Lost My Home in the Woolsey Fires — Is Climate Change To Blame?

I lost my house in the Woolsey Fires on November 9th, 2018 and I can't help but ask myself if climate change was a contributing factor in the complete destruction of my childhood home, neighborhood, and community.

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It's been four months since I've been home. It's been four months since I last sat on my bed staring at my corkscrew board covered with frozen memories from when I was little to now. It's been four months since I walked down the stained and intricately woven Persian rug, my mom has had since I was born, stretching from one end of the house to another. It's been four months since I sat outside on the porch, watching the trees sway back and forth in the last golden rays of sun. Home is where I learned how to ride a bike without training wheels, it's where my youngest brother took his first steps as a baby. It's where I grew up for fifteen years of my life. I woke up and fell asleep to the sound of waves crashing against the headlands of Point Dume in Malibu, California.

On November 9th, 2018 I lost my childhood home and neighborhood in the Woolsey Fires. Just a day and a half before was the mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, just twenty minutes away from my house, and five minutes away from where my brothers and I went to swim practice. Processing the heartbreaking turn of events in those couple of days was one of the hardest situations I had to process—if not the hardest. On November 8th, the night before the fire blazed through Malibu, one of my high school friends called me letting me know she was evacuating from a fire that had started in Thousand Oaks, just a couple of miles away from where the shooting occurred. She sounded calm but more annoyed about evacuating. Growing up in California, you're kind of used to evacuations happening from over the years, evacuating that night wasn't anything of terrifying. Still in shock from the shootings, and now many more of my high school friends evacuating I could only hope that everyone I knew, and those a part of the Thousand Oaks community were safe.

The next morning, I woke up to the news of the fire having spread from Thousand Oaks, jumping the 101 freeway, and traveling down the mountain through Agoura into Malibu. My house is above the water, I remember thinking. It will never get there, it never has. Within just a couple of hours, I had received the news that my home was burning to the ground, my dad and brother witnesses after staying behind in an effort to save our house.

It's been four months and I find myself looking back at photos, videos, google images and whatever I can find of my house. The way in which it was sitting comfortably atop our driveway, my favorite tree in the front yard's branches shaping into a beautiful and bright green bulb, shading the grass below.

As I find myself trying to remember all the moments I had growing up in my house, I can't help but ask myself if climate change was a factor in the destruction and loss of homes that not only I, but my entire community suffers from. The Woolsey fire was in fact, the most destructive wildfire ever in Los Angeles County, burning 96,949 acres.

I had grown up accustomed to fires happening in Southern California, while only ever evacuating twice ever in the fifteen years I had been living here. But losing my home and everything in it was something unimaginable.

It astounds me how far the fire reached from the hills in Thousand Oaks to just near of the headlands in Malibu, located above the water. Point Dume was the furthest the fire could have reached, any farther and you're in the water. After doing some research, I found that climate change is a principal factor in how much the Woolsey fire burned. Higher temperatures dry out vegetation and soil, creating more wildfire fuel. Climate change also shortens the California rainy season, which means the fire season lasts longer. Santa Ana winds are also affected by climate change, which helps fires move so quickly like Woolsey, destroying everything in its erratic path.

I still feel like my childhood home is still standing, being protected by the tree in my front yard. It's luscious and vibrant green leaves swaying back and forth, causing shadows to twinkle on the grass. Southern California will continue to be affected by the factors of global warming, due to the increase in hot and dry weather conditions that intensify the destructiveness of wildfires.

My heart will always be in Malibu, I am so thankful to have grown up in a such a safe and beautiful community. I keep in mind the effects we are making on the planet as human beings, and how I can individually, reduce my carbon footprint in whatever way that may be. Global warming is affecting our environment and it is affecting us. Every environmentally friendly change you make matters.

I can't wait to go home.

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To The Nursing Major During The Hardest Week Of The Year

I know that no grade can possibly prove what kind of nurse you will be. I know that no assignment will showcase your compassion. I know that no amount of bad days will ever take away the empathy inside of you that makes you an exceptional nurse.

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To the Nursing Major During Finals Week,

I know you're tired, I know you're stressed, and I know you feel like you can't go on. I know that no part of this seems fair, and I know you are by far the biggest critic of yourself. I know that you've thought about giving up. I know that you feel alone. I know that you wonder why in the world you chose one of the hardest college majors, especially on the days it leaves you feeling empty and broken.

But, I also know that you love nursing school. I know your eyes light up when you're with patients, and I know your heart races when you think of graduation. I know that you love the people that you're in school with, like truly, we're-all-in-this-together, family type of love. I know that you look at the older nurses with admiration, just hoping and praying that you will remain that calm and composed one day. I know that every time someone asks what your college major is that you beam with pride as you tell them it's nursing, and I know that your heart skips a beat knowing that you are making a difference.

I know that no grade can possibly prove what kind of nurse you will be. I know that no assignment will showcase your compassion. I know that a failed class doesn't mean you aren't meant to do this. I know that a 'C' on a test that you studied so. dang. hard. for does not mean that you are not intelligent. I know that no amount of bad days will ever take away the empathy inside of you that makes you an exceptional nurse.

I know that nursing school isn't fair. I know you wish it was easier. I know that some days you can't remember why it's worth it. I know you want to go out and have fun. I know that staying up until 1:00 A.M. doing paperwork, only to have to be up and at clinicals before the sun rises is not fair. I know that studying this much only to be failing the class is hard. I know you wish your friends and family understood. I know that this is difficult.

Nursing school isn't glamorous, with the white lab coat and stethoscope. Nursing school is crying, randomly and a lot. Nursing school is exhaustion. Nursing school is drinking so much coffee that you lose track. Nursing school is being so stressed that you can't eat. Nursing school is four cumulative finals jam-packed into one week that is enough to make you go insane.

But, nursing school is worth it. I know that when these assignments are turned in and finals are over, that you will find the motivation to keep going. I know that one good day of making a difference in a patient's life is worth a hundred bad days of nursing school.

Keep hanging in there, nursing majors. It'll all be worth it— this I know, for sure.

So, if you have a nursing major in your life, hug them and tell them that you're proud of them. Nursing school is tough, nursing school is scary, and nursing school is overwhelming; but a simple 'thank-you' from someone we love is all we need to keep going.

Sincerely,

A third-year nursing student who knows

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To The High School Graduating Seniors

I know you're ready, but be ready.

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Seniors,

I am not going to say anything about senioritis because I was ready to get out of there and I'm sure you are too; however, in your last months living at home you should take advantage of the luxuries you will not have in a college dorm. The part of college seen in movies is great, the rest of it is incredibly inconvenient. It is better to come to terms with this While you still have plenty of time to prepare and enjoy yourself.

Perhaps one of the most annoying examples is the shower. Enjoy your hot, barefoot showers now because soon enough you will have no water pressure and a drain clogged with other people's hair. Enjoy touching your feet to the floor in the shower and the bathroom because though it seems weird, it's a small thing taken away from you in college when you have to wear shoes everywhere.

Enjoy your last summer with your friends. After this summer, any free time you take is a sacrifice. For example, if you want to go home for the summer after your freshman year and be with your friends, you have to sacrifice an internship. If you sacrifice an internship, you risk falling behind on your resume, and so on. I'm not saying you can't do that, but it is not an easy choice anymore.

Get organized. If you're like me you probably got good grades in high school by relying on your own mind. You think I can remember what I have to do for tomorrow. In college, it is much more difficult to live by memory. There are classes that only meet once or twice a week and meeting and appointments in between that are impossible to mentally keep straight. If you do not yet have an organizational system that works for you, get one.

I do not mean to sound pessimistic about school. College is great and you will meet a lot of people and make a lot of memories that will stick with you for most of your life. I'm just saying be ready.

-A freshman drowning in work

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