Facing the threats of COVID-19 and wildfires, local unions and districts across California are trying to figure out how school will look this semester.
Orange County was one of the first to push for in-person instruction after it had been prohibited based on the county monitoring list. At the beginning of the summer, the members in the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers were pretty much evenly divided about that.
As a result of our rapidly changing climate, California has
experienced the deadliest, largest, and most destructive
wildfires in its history.
In the past five years, we’ve had nine of the 20 most destructive
fires the state has ever had, including the Camp Fire in Butte in
2018, the Tubbs Fire in Napa and Sonoma in 2017, the Carr Fire in
Shasta & Trinity in 2018, and the Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara
and Ventura in 2017.
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 run by a private company, offering hyper-local
air quality monitoring in many areas.
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.”