Climate Disasters Are Leaving Families With Nowhere to Go

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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. “

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