Updated: May 20
By Audrey Phillips, Natalie Zwalkow, and Sydney Meyer
California is notorious for summertime fires and smoky skies. This year is no exception, as local communities have been forced to endure the poor air quality and evacuations due to the substantial amount of fires in the area. As of now, there are three active fires near Yosemite National Park and surrounding areas, as well as one active fire in Cascadel, North Fork. Not only have thousands of acres of our beloved mountains and forests been turned to ash, but it has also taken a toll on local communities and businesses.
Specifically, communities in the vicinity of the Railroad fire, located in Sugar Pine and Fish Camp. The cause of the wildfire is undetermined, and it has so far consumed 12,141 acres since it began on August 29th, 2017. Mandatory evacuations followed immediately, including the widely known hotel & resort, Tenaya Lodge. We contacted the IT Director at Tenaya, Chris Meyer, who explained that all guests were ordered to leave the Lodge immediately, which resulted in chaos and fear. “We were unaware of how close the fire really was, or the severity of it, so it was a nerve wracking experience for everyone involved.” Chris informed us, “I was to go around to each of the hotel rooms to make sure all the guests had left, when I found two dogs abandoned by their owners in one of the rooms.” Many guests were not able to gather their belongings, causing Tenaya to remain in a state of disarray by the time it had been fully uninhabited.
This was not only unfortunate for the guests seeking vacation time in Yosemite, but it also negatively affected the employees of businesses nearby, as they were unable to work due to road closures. Additionally, many families who live in close proximity of an ongoing fire were ordered to leave their homes immediately. In fact, a few students here at Minarets High School were evacuated from their houses, including Junior Sierra Stalter, who was affected by the Mission fire in North Fork. She was in Morro Bay when her family got the evacuation notice. “My mom called me saying that we had to leave our house and she asked me what I wanted to bring with me. It was irritating that I wasn’t in town when everything was going on, especially since it was my mom’s birthday,” explained Sierra, “We stayed in the Pines resort, but the first night I didn’t get any sleep. My father was gone working on the fire, so I didn’t get to see him much.” Sierra and her family were able to safely return back home on September 6th.
The numerous fires occurring at the moment have resulted in an overcast of smoke all throughout the central valley. The smoke-filled skies are very harmful to the health of people’s lungs, especially those with asthma. Several schools cancelled classes due to the air quality, as it is unsafe for children to be exposed to the smoke. Firefighters are working tirelessly to contain the wildfires, and progress is being made to return the central valley back to safety.