Wildfires in California
The Mcgill Daily
Over 1,000 people remain missing and at least 81 have died as a result of recent California wildfires. Recovery crews in Paradise, California, are still searching for victims, while disaster relief organizations have set up sites for crisis relief.
The fires in northern California, considered to be the deadliest in the state’s history, erupted on November 8, causing thousands to flee their homes. An estimated 13,000 homes and another 15,000 buildings have been destroyed.
In addition to work by disaster and recovery crews, firefighting efforts have been underway for several weeks. Civilian firefighters have been joined by over 200 prisoners in California’s Conservation Camp program. Inmates are compensated $1.45 a day on average. California has a longstanding history of relying on its prison population to assist with firefighting, dating back to World War II. For more information on the prac- tice of exploitative inmate labour, see page 22. It is estimated that 40 per cent of firefighters are inmates from these working programs.
Private firefighters have been employed by insurance companies and celebrities, such as Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, to salvage expensive homes in the area. The use of private firefighting services, in contrast to the use of prison labour to quell fires, has called into question how divisions of labour exacerbate inequalities in the face of natural disasters.
Rain storms this past week have brought deadly “Camp Fire” close to containment after several weeks of burning. With some relief, authorities are pushing evacuees out of tent cities, telling them to seek refuge in shelters that are already full. However the struggle is not over yet as the rainfall is also warranting flash flood advisories for about one million people in the area of Paradise.