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.