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A Smoky Summer on the West Coast

Posted 10/06/2020 by Lauren Maggio

The haziness from the fires blocks the view of a lake in Idaho. photo by David Lucas

Wildfires escalated in the West Coast and left the air filled with smoke this summer.

Throughout the past month, wildfires have been devastating the West coast. Residents of California, Oregon, and Washington have been forced to evacuate their homes. While forest fires annually destroy the environment, this year has been notably worse.

David Lucas, an engine boss and member of a national Type 1 incident management team, has had lots of experience working on wildfires. His most recent expedition was putting out the fires along the West Coast. Lucas described the air quality as “extremely thick smoke; you cannot see very far.” Usually, the smoke is worse the closer you are to the actual fire; however, this year the smoke has spread across the country. Stretching along the West coast, thick smoke has created extremely poor visibility. Skies now eerily glow a bright orange red color or a dull yellow gray color. Lucas went on to say, “Obviously, [firefighters] are used to smoke while working on wildfires, but it is hard to be immersed in it for days.” Firefighters and other first responders are typically able to get a break from the smoke when they go home, but now that is not the case. Many people with lung and respiratory problems have also been heavily impacted by the fires. “The smoke continues for hundreds of miles, meaning they can’t just drive away to feel better,” added Lucas. Due to these massive fires, the smoke is blanketing the nation. People who cannot live and breathe in these conditions are unable to escape it. 

Lucas recently spent the night in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho while working on the fires. “The weirdest thing was I could actually see smoke in the lobby of the hotel tonight. I can smell it and feel the smoke in my lungs in my hotel room,” he recalled. As seen at the top of the article, Lucas shared a photograph of what is supposed to be a lake outside of his hotel room. 

These fires have not only impacted people’s day to day lives, but they have also resulted in major conflict across the nation. Due to the divisiveness of our country, it has become prevalent in society to blame one another for problems that have no simple explanation. However, these fires are the result of many different factors: a lack of forest management, climate change, droughts, and more. Ultimately, humans are responsible for the majority of those. The population is facing many challenges right now with the environment, but nature and humans are strong and resilient. Lucas believes that we will be able to bounce back from this; we just need to learn from our mistakes to avoid repeating them. Lucas summed the situation up by saying, “All of our jobs are to be smarter next time.” While the fires blaze on, everyone is hopeful that things will start looking up soon.