SEVERE WX : Flash Flood Watch - Flood Warning View Alerts

Search for remains continues after wildfire

As the death toll rises in communities ravaged by the Camp Fire, rescue workers are in Paradise, California, searching for human remains and any victims who are still unaccounted for after the blaze. CNN's Dan Simon reports.

Posted: Nov 16, 2018 2:10 AM
Updated: Nov 16, 2018 2:26 AM

This morning, by the time I woke up, the sun was already an eerie red. As they have for days, friends had already posted pictures to Instagram of the eerie sky out over the San Francisco Bay: a hazy blanket, all the hills and bridge obscured.

Outside, it's smoky and cold. As I went out to get the paper I could feel a familiar, phlegmy rattle in my lungs -- the low-level irritation of living with bad air. What's more, I recognized all these things from last year at this time. As I packed the kids' lunch, I called to my husband about items we need to put in the go box.

The air purifier has been running for days. The kids have been going to school but hunkering inside -- no recess for a week. My daughter has a rattly cough. Our ER is full of kids in respiratory distress. Every time we go out, we have to weigh whether or not, and how much, it will hurt. When I run errands, each day, I can see that our dashboard is covered in a fine sheet of pale ash.

It is indeed fire season again, and although right now none of the fires are close to us, the smoke is drifting over us from so many directions -- from the Camp Fire, from the Woolsey Fire. So much of California is up in smoke, and rain a ways off yet. The air quality maps show bad air for hundreds of miles in each direction. There's no wind. There are predictions of rain on the horizon -- we scour the weather sites, hopefully, but for now the chilly air is poison and stagnant.

Where we live, we aren't scared for ourselves -- not actively, at least not compared to last year, when we were just downwind of the Sonoma fires. Our friends lost homes and we all inhaled thick smoke for weeks, aware that because we live near a chain of refineries, in the wrong circumstances our area could become unlivable in a matter of hours. Over the years, we have turned that terror into a kind of preparedness: we've researched air masks, bought and stored canned food, packed a box of things to grab, and labeled even that box with what last minute items (computers and some kids toys and passports) we'd throw in if we had time to spare. All of this is to say, I'm not surprised the air is bad, or that it's fire season. This is not an essay about being startled by the apocalyptic.

But this year's apocalypse has gone on for a week and is predicted to go on at least a week longer. I do want to note that. I do want to say to anyone listening: this year's apocalypse is worse than last year's apocalypse. And what I recognized in myself this year -- even as this past week of bad air has passed -- has been a strange, terrible, low-level resignation, rattling around in me like the low burning in my lungs. It was a sad thought; this is how it is now, and that in fact, the fire seasons of this year and years to come are likely to get worse as the climate warms, as we go on having summer after summer of record heat.

Meanwhile, there's no help coming from on high: we're breathing wave after wave of smoke-filled air just as at a moment when the Trump administration ignores dire climate reports arriving on his desk -- promising us only air that is more polluted, more full of carbon. Air, that is, which will keep warming the planet further, which in turn will leave us more and more prone to fires like the ones raging around us..

We've had fires in California forever, of course -- the Native Americans here did controlled burns to manage our dry hills, and the old growth redwood trees we live near are formed and scarred in fire. The seeds of the mighty sequoia trees that people flock from around the world to see won't even germinate unless a wildfire comes through to clear the forest floor.

What's changing though, is the annual scale and intensity of these fires from any seasons of our lifetime. And what's changed as well is the sense that the people in power are managing our ecosystem with any thought or care for our well-being.

This year's fires despoil cities and towns and animal habitat and send huge dark plumes into the air even as Trump administration uses phony logic to roll back emissions standards on freeway vehicles, and uses phony economic studies to justify mining and logging in national monument lands. We breathe in the bad air in an era in which we are daily subjected to nonexistent, farcical, or inane environmental policy. Coughing, I thought of the line from the Auden poem, "The Shield of Achilles": "they were small/ and could not hope for help and no help came."

It's not of course that hope or help are impossible. I just read a piece about a waste-to-energy facility in the Netherlands, one that makes leaps forward in both generating clean energy and getting carbon out of the atmosphere. I took comfort in the idea that somewhere on the planet people are putting in place the kind of real and practical solutions to climate change and pollution that maybe, one day, with some luck, we in the United States may be able to implement.

Meanwhile, for this year, I feel grimly resigned to the apocalyptic nature of these hotter, longer and more frequent fires. For the foreseeable future, no help is coming, not from the top; nor from an EPA or an Interior Department that would strip us of national lands for logging and mining, not from an administration that rolls back even the simplest protection for bees; for marine sanctuaries; for air and water standards; that seems content to let corporations poison us, if it would make them richer.

An administration, that is, set on the short-term goal of removing any regulation that might stop a few rich people from padding their pockets -- all at the expense of the rest of us. It was a sad, lonely realization, one that people, say, in Flint, Michigan, must have had about their state government a long time ago.

As I thought about it this morning, I realized I'm angry, but also aware -- for now, for this year, the challenge is just to keep remembering that we deserve so much better. I said to my husband: "It's only going to get worse for a while, so doublecheck the air masks." Listening to myself, I couldn't help but consider that it felt like a small metaphor for surviving the Trump era. I dusted the ash off our car, and took my daughter to school.

West Lafayette
Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 52°
Kokomo
Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 50°
Rensselaer
Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 42°
Fowler
Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 52°
Williamsport
Cloudy
58° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 58°
Crawfordsville
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 54°
Frankfort
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 54°
Delphi
Cloudy
49° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 45°
Monticello
Cloudy
49° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 45°
Logansport
Cloudy
° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: °
Heavy rain and gusty winds are main threats overnight Sunday.
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1007681

Reported Deaths: 16470
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1355212121
Lake664101166
Allen57993801
Hamilton46350465
St. Joseph44397615
Elkhart35949510
Vanderburgh32251480
Tippecanoe27933260
Johnson25107445
Hendricks23897359
Porter22929365
Madison18748409
Clark18557252
Vigo17479303
Monroe15263200
LaPorte15173250
Delaware15073263
Howard14748290
Kosciusko12348148
Hancock11728176
Bartholomew11639180
Warrick11292189
Floyd11108215
Wayne10986253
Grant10082220
Morgan9472176
Boone8926115
Dubois8271131
Henry8229152
Dearborn822393
Noble8031106
Marshall7939135
Cass7546121
Lawrence7457171
Shelby7189119
Jackson698289
Gibson6597115
Harrison649192
Knox6421106
Huntington6395100
DeKalb632399
Montgomery6264111
Miami593398
Putnam581278
Clinton576171
Whitley565755
Steuben562576
Wabash5332104
Jasper532079
Jefferson511297
Ripley500586
Adams482576
Daviess4677114
Scott438974
Greene425196
Wells424888
Clay423360
White418764
Decatur4169102
Fayette406587
Jennings387361
Posey376644
Washington359151
LaGrange359078
Randolph3452100
Spencer340243
Fountain335760
Sullivan329452
Starke317171
Owen314771
Fulton312667
Orange293664
Jay284645
Franklin265643
Perry265452
Rush262432
Carroll261934
Vermillion258654
Parke231426
Pike229243
Tipton228159
Blackford193142
Pulaski183757
Crawford159823
Newton158348
Benton150617
Brown146747
Martin138719
Switzerland135011
Warren121116
Union107016
Ohio84613
Unassigned0540

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events