When Carolina’s neighbor came to tell her the fire was coming home for her, she was doubtful. She saw no smoke. But within half an hour it was there, dark and ugly.
Carolina looked after her son in the mobile home where she lived south of Medford, Oregon with her husband, father, and brothers. (Carolina and her husband are undocumented immigrants from Mexico, and since they are currently applying for asylum, we withhold their last names.) The men had left at four o’clock that morning to eat pears, apples, and grapes at a nearby farm pick. When the smoke got thick, Carolina, who is not driving, called her husband to pick her up. At that point, the police arrived in the neighborhood and asked everyone to leave. In the vicinity, Carolina recalls, everything was on fire. She gathered some legal documents, took her son by the hand, and fled.
There is practically nothing left of the mobile home that Carolina lived in. Most of their neighborhood, home to a number of immigrant families, was swallowed up in the Almeda fire, one of more than 2,000 forest fires that broke out on the west coast in late August and September. In Oregon, they used a million acres, twice the average for one fire season over the past decade. In California, fires broke out in an area almost the size of Connecticut. The flames drove tens of thousands of people from their homes, and the smoke trapped everyone else. For a week it felt like the world had shrunk, the horizon invisible behind layers of smog, the air the color of a dirty sorbet.
In Portland, that for several days worst air quality From every city in the world the haze finally lifted like a lid from the city. But for people like Carolina, the crisis is hardly over. Carolina, her husband Constantino, and their son, Miguel Angel, who is 11 years old and has developmental delays, came to the US last year and moved to the mobile home their father owned and lived in for a decade. It’s over now, along with the cars parked outside and everything else the family had to fetch except for the clothes they brought to work that morning and the few documents Carolina had managed to get.
The family of seven spent the first night with thousands of others in the Jackson County Expo Center parking lot Evacuated. Then they moved into a small mobile home on the farm where Constantino works and, recently, into a larger mobile home bought with donations from a GoFundMe campaign. Constantino and the other men continued to pick fruit in the suffocating smoke. Not working wasn’t a good option. “Nobody got sick, thank God,” said Carolina. “You have to work because we don’t have a house now, [and] The cars were burned. “
Carolina’s family didn’t have home insurance, she said, and neither did most of the others who had lost homes in their neighborhood. It won’t be easy to find a new one. Affordable housing was already scarce in Rogue Valley, an agricultural area with a significant immigrant community. Before the fires, the area had a rental vacancy rate of less than 2 percent, according to the Los Angeles times, one of the lowest in the country. One third The residents of Talent, a town of 6,500 south of Medford that was severely damaged by the Almeda fire, were already spending more than half their income on rent. Homelessness was ascending. Now a longtime Jackson County real estate agent Estimates that “the vast majority” of cheap and affordable housing in the area has been destroyed. “It’s like this fire has gone after the poorest and most vulnerable people in our community,” said a councilor in Phoenix, another community devastated by the flames Times.
The September fires are likely the ones most intense wildfire event in the history of Oregon. Thanks to climate change, the conditions that started the fire – including a long drought and high winds – are becoming a “new normal”. For a growing number of families, this is also the daunting task of starting over. When climate change increases the ecological risk, hurricanes develop strongerForest fires more violent and less predictable– It also increases inequality. Last year, New York Times Reporters spent three months reporting from one of the largest homeless camps in Oakland, California and found many people were there because of natural disasters. A woman lost her home in a devastating fire in California in 2014. another lost hers to Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Undocumented immigrants are particularly at risk, according to an upcoming report paper in the magazine Geoforum That analyzes the emergency and recovery efforts after a massive wildfire in 2017 in California: “Despite the disaster on the front line,” the newspaper says, “undocumented immigrants in California leave almost a year without a safety net without a safety net – round forest fire season. “It’s now easy to see in Oregon how climate events beyond a housing crisis, wage stagnation and pandemic can cause families like Carolina to have nowhere to go.
This problem will only get worse because the world is in a sense shrinkage. The coasts are disappearing all over the world. Salt water seeps inland and dampens agricultural fields. Are deserts expandAs an atmospheric circulation pattern known as the Hadley cell, which forms a dry, hot band around the center of the earth roughly from the top of the Sahara to the bottom of the Kalahari, it shifts north. Without a dramatic change in global greenhouse gas emissions, extreme heat will become common in the south and southwest of the US and a strip through India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and China, where a fifth of the world’s population is alive. According to a current one New York Times/ ProPublica Analysis: 28 million Americans, not just in the West but also in states like Georgia and Florida, are projected to be exposed to mega-fires by 2040, while 100 million people live in areas expected to get so hot and humid that they work outside can be a health hazard. As more people flee natural disasters, there will be fewer and fewer decent places.
Carolina went back to see what was left of her home a few days after she was evacuated. “Everything turned to ashes. There was nothing good left, ”she said. Her family has received support from local organizations – groups like that Unete Center for Farmworker Advocacy and Oregon’s Latinx Farmworker Union, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, handing out help – but she said that she and other families will need a lot more help to actually rebuild or find a new home. Carolina’s father and brothers, who have legal status, could go back to Mexico for a while and then return, but she is still waiting for a court date on her asylum case and struggling to find legal counsel.
“My son, my husband and I, it will be more difficult for us because we don’t have a work permit,” she said. “We want to stay here because we are honorable people and want to work to have a better future for our child.” When asked what about this future that she believes the fire will change, Carolina said, “Well, everything.”