For some, California wildfires are impacting college decisions

Eva Hadjiyanis and Simone Vaillancourt

Since Nov. 8, parts of California have been up in flames from the Camp and Malibu wildfires. Colleges across the state have been evacuated and locked down as a result of the fires.

Last year, over 60 EHS students applied to colleges near Los Angeles. Senior Kathleen Scoggin is applying to Occidental College, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and the University of Southern California (USC), all of which were deeply affected by the fires ravaging Southern California. “I know people that do go to school in Los Angeles, and their classes are shut down, and you can’t see at all because of the smoke. That’s a little bit scary,” Scoggin added.

For senior Khanh Tu, the wildfires brought to light new factors to consider when picking a college. “[Fires are] not a common natural disaster that would happen here in Minnesota, so I think it would be hard to know the precautions to take during these wildfires,” Tu said. Now, Tu feels that being close to family in case of an emergency is preferable.

EHS alum Abigail Swoap, a student at USC, was at the heart of the devastation for several days. “[There was] a lot of smoke in the air about a week ago,” Swoap said. “There are also a lot of USC students who live in areas that have been greatly affected by the fires. I have a friend who lost a friend in the Borderline shooting and went home to be with family, only to be forced to evacuate his house that evening because of the fire.”

According to USC, students and faculty were affected by noxious smoke, which “smears lungs with soot, similar to how it sullies blue sky,” the university reported. While students fear for their health, they also risk delaying their education.

In the near future, wildfires may become a common occurrence for students in California. The Northern California Camp Fire has been named the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history, having destroyed over 10,000 structures. Additionally, according to Rolling Stone, wildfires from now on will only get worse. “Subtle changes in wind patterns and rainfall, as well as the fact that 2018 was the warmest summer since 2014, have turned [California] into a tinderbox,” the site reported.

Given the fact that the climate is expected to continue to change, students now have to consider those factors when deciding where to apply for college.