Fires in California, many started by lightning, have burned a little more than a million acres, and scores of people have lost homes and thousands more have been forced to evacuate, including CFT members. The fires, some of the largest in the state’s history are burning in areas including Lake, Napa, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo counties.
Climate change has led to a torrent of wildfires throughout
California in recent years. During times of wildfire and
smoke-filled air, it’s important to know how to stay safe on
the job and at home. You can also get involved in CFT’s
Climate Justice Campaign.
With wildfires burning in the north and south of our state,
here is some helpful information about air quality, worker
safety, and supporting families in need.
You can find the Air Quality Index in your area by entering your
zip code in the EPA’s AirNow
online calculator, which is also available as an app for your
mobile device. Purpleair.com is also a useful
resource, offering hyper-local air quality monitoring in
When Susan Trask was 40, she went back to school and earned a
degree in ornamental horticulture at Long Beach City College.
Trask has since worked as a groundskeeper at the college
district, and this year she was elected president of AFT Local
6108, the Long Beach Council of Classified Employees.
Although Laura Carrasco and her husband were at home in Oxnard on
Monday, December 4, they didn’t smell the smoke because of the
60-mile-an-hour winds. Around 10:30 pm, they looked outside, saw
flames, and a few minutes later, firefighters went up the street
with bullhorns, telling people to evacuate.
It was the beginning of the Thomas fire, the largest recorded
fire in California history, which burned 273,400 acres in Ventura
and Santa Barbara counties, destroying about 1,000
After the North Bay fires destroyed more than 5,000 homes and
killed dozens of people, William Ortlinghaus, who teaches
physical education at Kenilworth Junior High and his wife Jen, a
teacher at Valley Vista Elementary, were happy to go back to work
after school had been cancelled for a week.
“It was the only normal thing we had left,” Jen said, “And my
fourth graders were curious to see if we were still alive and our
dogs were OK.”
We don’t spend much time changing bulbs anymore,” said Palomar
College electrician Rick Beach. “There aren’t many left on campus
And fewer by the day. Beach and maintenance and operations staff
members of the Palomar Council of Classified Employees, AFT Local
4522, recently led the installation of LED lighting across
Palomar’s San Marcos and Escondido campuses.
The CFT made history in 2016 when it became the first statewide
labor organization in the United States to adopt a Climate
Justice Agenda. When Resolution 29 was brought before delegates
to the CFT Convention, I presented the history of my local union
in forging the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council
Environmental Caucus, the first such body in the nation.
It’s typical for educators to lead the way, philanthropist Tom
Steyer told attendees at the CFT Convention. As the son and
grandson of teachers, Steyer founded NextGen Climate, a non-profit
that acts politically to prevent climate disaster.
Today, as CFT members joined with coalition partners in
Sacramento to rally for protection from agricultural pesticides
for students, the Californians for Pesticide Reform bestowed an
award on the CFT for its local and statewide efforts to make
schools near fields safer.