Boise State students impacted by wildfires burning across California

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Wildfires erupted in northern California Sunday night, spreading into multiple cities and counties. Fueled by wind and dry conditions, the wildfires gained strength over 170,000 acres. According to Boise State Student Affairs and Enrollment Management files, there are about 90 Boise State students from the affected areas. However, because this count is only based on addresses on file, the number of those affected is greater than what is just on paper.

The most recent report by ABC cites that 21 people are now dead and hundreds are missing due to the fires–and the death count is expected to rise.

California officials in Napa, Yuba, Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino, Butte, Nevada, Orange and Calavera counties, as well as specific cities including Anaheim, San Francisco and Santa Rosa are all attempting to contain fires at their borders. States of emergency were declared by Gov. Jerry Brown Monday night.

Senior political science major Adeline Vernon is from Sonoma County, one of the areas undergoing a state of emergency.

“Our county has been almost completely destroyed from the ongoing fires,” Vernon said. “The places I grew up in, the roads I know by heart, all the beautiful views–everything is gone. There’s no way to describe it.”

Senior communication major Rylan Kobre is from Santa Rosa, one of the cities that has been hit the hardest by the fires.


Smoke shrouds the sky and casts an amber glow over the evening sky as wildfires continue to burn near the residential neighborhood of Oakmont in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service.

“People are so concerned because you don’t expect wildfires like this to get into the city,” Kobre said. “Normally you see these fires up in the hills away from the city.”

Kobre said the root cause of the fires is currently unknown, but the survival of the fires is attributed to the combination of the right weather, wind conditions and inability to control the flames.

“I think a lot of people from areas outside of California think we’re used to this. This was the furthest thing from expected,” said Vernon.

The fire in Santa Rosa, called the Tubbs fire, partly began in Kenwood–about 20 minutes from Santa Rosa.

“Sunday night I had been texting my mom and she told me there was a serious fire in Kenwood,” Kobre said. “I went to bed and I woke up to about eight phone calls and 20 text messages.”

Kobre’s parents evacuated and since have returned to their house, but are packed and ready to go again if needed since they live at the edge of the evacuation zone.

Noelle Kotula, a sophomore health science major, is also currently trying to keep in touch with family back home in Santa Rosa.

“My neighborhood has been evacuated and is currently at risk right now,” Kotula said. “Sitting in class, getting the emergency updates to evacuate my home immediately–I feel so helpless.”

Part of the issue, Kobre and Vernon explained, is that cell service is limited. Kobre has been in contact with a few friends, five whose homes were by the fire; Vernon has had to rely on social media sites, such as Facebook, for communication as friends and family check in.

Vernon expresses that she wishes she could be there to help loved ones. She urges Boise community members to consider donating to one of the many families that has created a GoFundMe or an Amazon wishlist.

Kotula plans on returning to California within the next month to assist family and friends who have been impacted.

“Several of my friends’ houses, schools and other buildings have burned down,” Kotula said. “I never thought I’d have to make a list of all my precious belongings back home. Trying to focus on midterms while my hometown is reduced to ashes is the hardest thing I have ever done.”

For live updates on the fires, visit this website.

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