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Features

December 18, 2018

Influence of the fire on businesses BY AIDEN O’ SULLIVAN

Staff Reporter

On Nov. 8, 2018, an area just east of the town Paradise, California went up in flames as a poorly managed transmission tower blew, sending molten materials into dry vegetation, starting the campfire fire. Now completely contained, the campfire has been classified as the most destructive fire in California history and burned over 150,000 acres of land. Not only was the fire destructive, but the side effects of the fire were extremely hazardous. A haze of smoke drifted from the fire to the bay area, reaching up to 250 in San Francisco on the air quality index. With the air quality so poor, it made a major impact on day to day life in the Bay

Area, as no one wanted to be outside in the dangerous air. As few people went out outside while the smoke was looming over Burlingame, many local businesses’ sales decreased as well. Razan Ghishan, a worker at Sweet Citrus juice bar on Broadway, discussed the impact the smoke had on business. “Business was pretty slow,” Ghishan said. “Not many people wanted to go out, and the people that were still out were the ones going to work and school still.” Although Sweet Citrus was generating less income compared to an average day, various supplements, ginger and wheat grass shots for example, were a large source of revenue. “Most of the people coming in were actually taking different sup-

plements to fight the air quality, and boost their immune system,” Ghishan said. The Burlingame location of Village Host on Broadway was another business affected by the fire. “We had a lot of deliveries; not many people were coming at all,” Ryan Davis of Village Host, a local pizza restaurant, said. “Nobody wanted to leave their homes.” The smoke even affected the temperature conditions inside of Village Host. “It was really hot in there,” Davis said. “We couldn’t get ventilation because the way we use our air conditioning is it pulls from outside, so it’s pulling smoke in and causing hazards, so we had to keep Paradise, a town of over 26 thousand people, was destroyed as a result of the Camp Fire that ravaged Butte County. The fire was the it closed.” deadliest in California to date.

PHOTO BY AIDEN O’ SULLIVAN

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Camp Fire victim Alleyna Meehan moves to Burlingame BY TEKLA CARLEN

Copy Editor

When junior Alleyna Meehan first prepared to evacuate her home in Paradise, California last month, she did not realize how serious the threat of fire was and began to pack her clothing. Only after she understood the fate her house would soon suffer did she begin to take gifts from her great-grandmother and photo albums from her room, knowing she would probably never return. She was right. It took all of eight hours for the Camp Fire to obliterate her hometown of over 26 thousand people, where Meehan had

lived since the third grade. Only two of her family members’ houses remained standing. Meehan took a picture at 7 a.m. when there first seemed to be a real peril. By 10:30 a.m., she was fleeing in a car and recalled thinking for a second that she might not make it out. Meehan had known that there was going to be danger nearby—it was not the first time a fire hit Paradise—but she did not know how severe the damage would be. She described the experience as “the perfect storm” because of coincidentally intense wind that made the Camp Fire so devastating on the day it reached her town. “A lot of times [I’d been] warned

about evacuating from a nearby fire, and so after a while I just started to think that it was not an imminent threat,” Meehan said. “But then that morning, the sky was really smoky, hazy and I was like, ‘Wow, this seems a lot closer than most of them had been.’” Meehan acknowledges that Paradise has a long journey on the way to anything that resembles recovery. The problem, she explained, is that most of the town’s residents have not been able to return. Amidst all the chaos, it is unclear who plans to come back to Paradise and who, like Meehan’s family, has left for good. Many people are currently staying in Chico or Durham,

both 30 minutes away by car. Meehan also had classmates at Paradise High School who moved to Oregon and Montana. “[The Camp Fire] broke up the community in all honesty,” Meehan said. “A lot of people are trying to say this will bring us back together, but it really destroyed and took homes and things from people, including myself.” Meehan, her mother, her sister and her pets were living in their Paradise home at the time of the fire. They decided to come to Burlingame because her grandmother lives here, and her family has visited often. She lived in San Mateo before moving to Paradise eight

years ago. Coming to Burlingame has been overwhelming for Meehan because the academic environment is more intense than her previous school, but she is adjusting to the change. “You don’t think it’s going to happen to you,” Meehan said of the tragedy. “I remember hearing about some of the fires nearby … but then having it actually happen is this whole other experience that you can’t even fathom. It really makes you value things that are important in your life, just little necessities you don’t think about and then you just start to miss once it’s all gone.”

Smoky skies and poor air quality Canceled school day threaten student health and wellness will not be made up Design Editor

On Nov. 14, northern California became the region with the worst air pollution in the world. As smoke spread from the Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive fire ever to burn in California, the Air Quality Index (AQI) in Burlingame rose to a level rated “unhealthy” by the Environmental Protection Agency. Although the short-term effects of breathing smoky air are significant, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), reports that healthy individuals should see no long-term consequences. According to UCSF, the most harmful particles in the air are PM2.5 particles, which can work their way deep inside the lungs due to their small size. PM2.5 particles cause inflammation by injuring the lung chemically. Although regular dust or comfort masks do little to protect against smoke inhalation, N95 masks are designed to filter out these particles. Another concern comes from the presence of toxic materials in the air. Most of the particles emitted from the fire come from the burning of wood, but particles emitted from burnt man-made objects, such as cars or furniture, could be more dangerous. N95 masks can prevent inhalation of some toxic particles, but they can not block toxic vapors or gases. In an effort to limit student and staff exposure to smoke, Burlingame adopted shelter-in-place procedure. All physical education classes were held indoors, and sports games and practices were canceled. The heating, ventilation and air conditioning system was

PHOTO BY ALLIE KENNEDY

BY ALLIE KENNEDY

Juniors Anna Bronzini and Danielle Jaworski wear N95 masks to avoid inhaling harmful particles. also shut down initially. Addition- said. “I went outside for probably ally, the district sent health aide five minutes, and then I coughed Ana Herold surgical masks, which for two hours.” Senior Abigail Nix, who also she distributed. While the air quality was poor, has asthma, reported a similar exHerold assisted students who perience. “I walked outside that first day came to her with smoke-related ailments by giving them space to that I really noticed the smoke, rest indoors or helping them ar- when it was all orange and hazy, and literally within 30 seconds range to return home. “What I would say we saw I was coughing. I was thinking, most at school was trouble breath- ‘Oh no. This is not good,’” Nix ing, sore throats and headaches,” said. “My asthma has gotten a lot Herold said. “You could also have better, but the smoke really triggered it. I took my inhaler every irritation in your eyes.” For students with respiratory morning.” Still, Nix was thankful that the conditions such as asthma, however, the impact of poor air quality AQI in Burlingame had not risen higher. on health can be more severe. “My friend who goes to UC “I tried not to go outside for the entirety of the week when the Air Davis bikes to her classes and she Quality Index was above 150 in continued to bike in the smoke, the warning zone, but, even when but then she fainted and fell off it was moderate, whenever I went her bike,” Nix said. “It’s crazy how outside I noticed that my lungs it felt really bad here, but it was so just hurt,” senior Kate Linenbach much worse in other places.”

BY DARRION CHEN

Senior Reporter

As a result of unhealthy air quality due to smoke from the Camp Fire in northern California, all San Mateo County public schools, including the San Mateo Union High School District (SMUHSD) locations, were closed on Friday, Nov. 16. Although prior to Nov. 16 other schools in the Bay Area such as the University of California- Berkeley had already canceled due to health concerns, SMUHSD schools remained in session. “The air was getting worse; a lot of schools in the county had already canceled, but we decided to stay in session for the time being,” Superintendent Kevin Skelly said. “We know it’s disruptive to parents when kids aren’t in school since they have to make arrangements. And I reasoned that the filter and ventilation systems in our schools are better than those in students’ homes.” However, as the air quality became progressively worse and as

other schools began to cancel classes, SMUHSD reconsidered its decision. SMUHSD District code BP 3516.5 “authorizes the superintendent or designee to close a school site, to change the regular school day schedule or to take any necessary action when adverse weather conditions or other emergencies warrant.” In other words, the protocols for closing SMUHSD schools are more called play-byplay, instead of having a set checklist or standard. “After consulting with other superintendents in the country and with SMUHSD principals, we made the decision to cancel school for Friday the 16th,” Superintendent Skelly said. After this decision was made on the afternoon of Nov. 15, an email and voicemail recording were sent out to all SMUHSD students and parents to notify them of the cancellation. The lost school day on Nov. 16 will not be made up. “I’ve been working in California schools for 30 years, and this is only the third time I have had to cancel school,” Skelly said.

SMUHSD code BP 3516.5 “authorizes the Superintendent or designee to close a school site, to change the regular school day schedule, or to take any necessary action when adverse weather conditions or other emergencies warrant.”

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