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Belmont students react to California wildfires

As wildfires blaze through much of California, Belmont students in and from the state are doing what they can to stay safe — and positive.

As nearly two dozen different wildfires burn throughout the state, leaving more than 1.42 million acres burned and over 60,000 people evacuated from their homes, according to

For Wade Evans, a junior from the Oakland area, poor air quality and ashy conditions have become a part of daily life.

“The smoke is cloud-like fog but it stays here for a while and then with the sun shining through it, it feels kinda apocalyptic,” said Evans.

On top of staying home amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, poor air quality is forcing residents to take shelter and stay indoors when they can, he said.

“For us, it means we have to close all our doors and windows. The county I live in issued out a health advisory telling everyone to close our doors, close our windows, stay inside and if you’re going to drive keep the air conditioning circulating inside,” he said.

Since the start of the wildfires, Wade has noticed a drastic change in the number of people outside in his neighborhood.

“Since COVID-19 I’ve seen a lot more people and families walking up and down our street but lately it has been pretty sparse because everyone is staying inside,” he said.

Wildfires are nothing new to California, averaging 3,826 wildfires every five years, according to

For junior Eva Speaker, a Westlake Village native who experienced several California wildfires growing up, the hardest part of evacuations is leaving home — and not knowing if you’re going to come back, she said.

“Especially being at college away from home, it’s so scary when I get a call from my mom asking what I want her to grab from my room because we’re being evacuated,” she said. “That’s really hard because being away I don’t even know what’s in my room that I would need.”

But for Speaker, the commonality of wildfires has taught her to be thankful and appreciate what she has, not what she might lose, she said.

“Hold your family close and everything is mostly replaceable,” she said. “Try not to get too caught up in material things you might be losing. As long as you’re safe and you’re healthy, the rest can be fixed after.”

This article written by Marissa Avnaim and Madison Bowen.

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