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 2:05 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.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 52037

Reported Deaths: 2762
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion12111693
Lake5677249
Elkhart366260
Allen2971134
St. Joseph221169
Hamilton1735101
Cass16489
Hendricks1470100
Johnson1351118
Porter84938
Vanderburgh8016
Tippecanoe7859
Clark71944
Madison68164
LaPorte62928
Howard61058
Bartholomew60545
Kosciusko5844
Marshall57011
Noble52428
Boone49244
LaGrange48710
Delaware48152
Jackson4793
Hancock47436
Shelby46025
Floyd41844
Monroe36128
Morgan34431
Grant32226
Dubois3196
Henry30318
Montgomery29720
Clinton2903
White27810
Dearborn27123
Warrick26829
Vigo2618
Decatur25732
Lawrence25325
Harrison21822
Greene19932
Miami1942
Jennings17912
Putnam1748
DeKalb1694
Scott1659
Wayne1596
Daviess15117
Perry15110
Steuben1402
Orange13823
Jasper1362
Ripley1357
Franklin1288
Gibson1282
Wabash1193
Carroll1142
Starke1093
Fayette1087
Whitley1086
Newton10110
Huntington942
Jefferson872
Wells831
Randolph804
Fulton761
Jay720
Knox710
Washington681
Pulaski661
Clay645
Posey640
Rush623
Spencer591
Owen531
Benton510
Sullivan511
Adams491
Brown441
Blackford402
Fountain362
Crawford330
Tipton331
Switzerland320
Parke280
Martin260
Ohio230
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union140
Pike120
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 66853

Reported Deaths: 3064
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin12301449
Cuyahoga9359399
Hamilton7046208
Lucas3079306
Marion275539
Montgomery257936
Summit2382209
Pickaway222942
Mahoning1971239
Butler189747
Columbiana139560
Stark1244116
Lorain118970
Trumbull106678
Warren101826
Clark82010
Delaware76315
Fairfield71917
Lake62723
Tuscarawas62110
Licking60012
Medina59932
Belmont57324
Clermont5157
Miami51431
Wood51051
Portage50960
Ashtabula45244
Geauga43143
Richland3906
Allen38541
Wayne37655
Greene3659
Mercer30410
Erie30122
Holmes2625
Darke26126
Huron2602
Madison2259
Ottawa21724
Athens1921
Sandusky17615
Ross1503
Washington14720
Putnam14515
Coshocton1434
Crawford1405
Jefferson1272
Morrow1271
Hardin12512
Union1151
Auglaize1124
Muskingum1061
Preble961
Lawrence920
Clinton912
Monroe8917
Hancock871
Hocking839
Guernsey824
Scioto770
Shelby774
Williams772
Carroll713
Logan711
Ashland692
Fulton680
Wyandot665
Brown621
Fayette580
Highland581
Champaign571
Knox571
Defiance553
Van Wert491
Perry481
Seneca442
Henry370
Paulding340
Jackson310
Pike290
Adams282
Vinton232
Gallia211
Noble140
Harrison131
Meigs130
Morgan120
Unassigned00
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