California Wrestles With Deadliest Wildfires On Record
California is battling deadly wildfires in the northern and southern parts of the state that have killed 44 people, burned more than 200,000 acres of land and destroyed thousands of structures. On Monday, President Trump approved federal funding for the areas affected.
The Camp Fire in Northern California, in Butte County approximately 80 miles north of Sacramento, is now the deadliest on record in the state. It has killed 42 people, burned 117,000 acres and destroyed 6,400 homes and 260 commercial buildings. About 5,000 firefighters are battling the blaze and as of Tuesday morning, it was 30 percent contained. The fire started on Thursday night and the fast-moving flames destroyed the town of Paradise, population 27,000. More than 50,000 people have fled the blaze statewide.
In Southern California, the Woolsey Fire has burned more than 96,000 acres and is responsible for two deaths. The fire broke out in the Thousand Oaks area on Thursday and has burned 435 buildings and is reportedly 35 percent contained. The Santa Ana winds have fueled the fire’s spread and is now burning on both sides of the 101 freeway, extending into Los Angeles county. Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for residents in Malibu, Topanga, Monte Nido, Hidden Hills and parts of Calabasas. Giving a sense of perspective about the situation, several industry members located in the areas affected have shared their experiences with PPB Newslink.
Angela Heiden, account manager at supplier ChicoBag Company in Chico, in the northern part of the state, says the company has not been directly affected by the nearby Camp Fire but some of their 28 employees have been out of the office or are working from home because of the smoke, and some of their homes have been lost or damaged; most also have friends or relatives whose homes have been destroyed. “Our company, as a whole, is out of danger, but a lot of our employees, employee’s families and friends have been affected.”
The company was closed Friday but reopened on Monday and deliveries are on schedule. “It all came on so suddenly,” she says about how fast the fire spread. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
A local bank, Tri Counties Bank, has started a Go Fund Me account to raise $150,000 to benefit fire victims in nearby Paradise, California.
David Schmaeling, president of distributor Proforma Color Press in Ventura, near Los Angeles, says, “We have not had any shipments delayed and everyone is working with local authorities on evacuations or trying to get to their homes. Highway 101 and 1 were closed for three or four days, which has never happened before. With some time off, I volunteered with the American Red Cross.”
Leeton Lee, founder of ComplyBox Consulting in Oxnard, was getting married on the day the Woolsey Fire broke out. He says that when they learned about the fire before the wedding it had consumed 100 acres, and by the end of the reception two hours later, it was up to 5,000 acres. “The biggest disruption to me was the lack of TV, internet and phone service in my area,” he says. “Everything was restored on Sunday afternoon, so I’m able to conduct business. Many businesses are still waiting for internet and phones to be restored, however. I have read that the fires destroyed a number of key communications lines, so many people were without communications and TV to be able to track the fires’ locations and to be in touch with family and loved ones during the worst parts of the fires. Our community was also hit last week by the shootings at the Borderline Bar and Country Dance Club in Thousand Oaks. I’ve driven by it three times over the weekend and there are still investigators and police personnel at the location doing their work. I can see where customers threw chairs and barstools into the plate glass windows to try to escape the shooter’s gunfire that night.”
Jeff Jewett, CRO at Oxnard supplier Simba, says, “We have been fortunate to not have anyone directly affected by the fires with respect to home loss, but a number of employees do live in evacuation zones—myself included—which have since been lifted. New fires are starting up all around, but the fire departments have been mitigating loss. Tragic that this came directly after the mass shooting at a bar in the same community.”
Debbie Abergel, chief strategy officer at distributor Jack Nadel International in Los Angeles, says, “Our head office or Valley office have not been impacted. We do have employees that had to evacuate their homes. It has been a crazy weekend in LA. The fires and the shooting have everyone kind of shaken.”
Ryan Paules, owner of distributor Radar Promotions in West Hills, says, “Radar Promotions almost had no mailing address or home office left. We were about one gust away from a mandatory evacuation. Friday was probably the worst night for us.; I have lived in West Hills just about my entire life and I have never seen it this bad. I want to give a huge thanks to LA City Fire, LA County Fire, Ventura County Fire, CalFire and all the first responders who literally worked all weekend.”
The fires have been declared federal disasters, opening the door for those affected to receive grants for home repairs and temporary housing, and low-interest loans for what’s not covered by insurance. State and local governments will also receive federal emergency assistance. The Promotional Products Business Recovery Fund is also available to industry companies in the designated federally-declared disaster areas. They may apply for funds here.
Industry members who would like to contribute to the fund can donate online here or mail checks to Promotional Products Business Recovery Fund, care of PPAI RAC, 3125 Skyway Circle North, Irving, Texas 75038. This fund is a 501(c)(3) organization and all contributions will be tax deductible. A tax-deductible receipt will be mailed to each donor.
Follow PPB Newslink for more updates on this ongoing situation as information becomes available.