Amidst a pandemic, heatwaves, and wildfires we are grateful for our everyday heroes

Wildfires have unfortunately become a part of the natural disasters that plague our beautiful State throughout the year. Currently, more than 14,000 firefighters are battling over two dozen major fires and lightning complexes across California. As of writing this, the weather conditions are becoming more favorable, and yet there were over 200 lightning strikes again in the last few days across California. 

According to Richard Steadman, Control Officer of the Monterey Bay Air Resources District Air Pollution Control Officer, “we have seen some of the worst air quality we have experienced since the agency formed in early 1970.”

On Saturday, several of the counties within their three-county jurisdiction were registering hazardous at times. 

It was recommended to stay inside due to the poor air quality and use common sense if you smell smoke, and if you cannot see across the street, that means the air is hazardous. 

On Sunday, the North County air started to lighten, and by Monday, there was blue in the sky again. Cal Fire reported on Tuesday that favorable weather conditions continue to aid firefighters in their efforts toward containment. Since the lightning siege that started on Saturday, Aug. 15, there have been over 13,000 lightning strikes, with 233 new strikes in the past 24 hours. There have been more than 650 new wildfires during this time period, which have now burned over 1.25 million acres. The significant acreage burned makes the fires collectively larger than Delaware. In this siege, there have been seven reported fatalities and more than 1,400 structures destroyed.

However, they report that the overall weather conditions have improved compared to last week. While firefighters braced for another round of thunderstorms Sunday through Monday, lightning activity was relatively low. Isolated thunderstorms are still possible in the upper portion of northern California and the Sierra Nevada mountain range. A Red Flag Warning had been issued due to the possibility of lightning with little to no rain. The rest of California will experience a return to a warm and dry weather pattern.

As the air begins to clear and the smell of smoke starts to fade, and our daily routine within this current pandemic continues, it is easy to move on and stop thinking about the brave frontline men and women who put their lives on the line each and every day. 

As we watch the press conferences and the firefighters’ photos holding the line, for countless hours on end, we need to remember that each of them chose their profession. Each one had a calling as to why they first signed up and why they continue to suit up every day.

They are our everyday heroes, and in times of devastation and despair, we remember and need them the most. Every day when they go to work, they are rushing into danger, and because of them, our communities are safe.  

As of Thursday, the Atascadero Fire Department has one engine company in the Los Padres National Forest in Monterey-Big Sur, one engine company in Santa Cruz, an ambulance with firefighter-paramedics assigned to the River Fire near Salinas and one engineer-paramedic working in the communications trailer on the River Fire.

They also have one person assisting at the Los Padres National Forest Expanded Dispatch center in Santa Maria. 

We thank them all for their continuous hard work and dedication to keeping us all safe amidst this pandemic, heatwave, and devastating wildfires. We are grateful for all the first responders and their families.    

To learn more ways to prevent sparking a wildfire, visit ReadyForWildfire.org.

Atascadero Fire Engine on scene. Photo courtesy of the City of Atascadero.
Getting through this together, Atascadero