Arising From the Smoke And Ashes Of The California Wildfires Are The “Better Angels Of Our Nature” [Opinion]

It’s hell in Paradise. The fires are still raging. Firefighters continue to soldier on. The death toll has reached 71, while the number of missing has ballooned to over a thousand. The Los Angeles Times put it this way, “California fires: Number of missing soars over 1,000 as Paradise reels from unfathomable losses.”

“Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told reporters at a Thursday afternoon news conference that search crews had recovered eight more bodies in the burn area. The number of people unaccounted for rose to 1,011, up from 631 on Thursday evening, after authorities combed through additional 911 calls, emails and other reports generated at the peak of the chaotic evacuation.”

We have to remind ourselves that this is not yesterday’s news, but an ongoing crisis. The fire has reached 40% containment, and that is enough for the evacuation orders to be lifted. But the flames still rage and the threat is still real. Conditions can change and people will have to be ready to go, according to Honea.

The news is not all bad. In every tragedy, we are reminded of that which binds us together as a single race of humans. It happens in war, and after terrorists attacks, and storms, and famine. And it can be seen in California. The article highlights one such moment.

“At a town hall meeting in Chico late Thursday, Denise Davis showed up to reconnect with her community. There, the 53-year-old Paradise resident saw a neighbor whom she last saw in a driveway carrying someone else’s dog during evacuations. This community, she said, is why she’s coming back. ‘That’s why we’re going to rebuild.'”


Vox notes that “Northern California now has the worst air quality in the world, thanks to wildfire smoke.” Because of this, smoke covers everything. The nightmare hell stew of acidic bog mats hair and skin with a layer of despair. Many are without access to showers.

In response to this very specialized brand of human misery, many beauty salons are offering free hair washes to evacuees. Bleached Salon owners in Chico have been providing this service to hundreds of men and women escaping the fire. It is not a corporate mandate. The people involved saw a need and wanted to help out the best way they could.

In situations like this, money is useful, and a lot of it will be needed to help the displaced and rebuild the communities, but it’s not the most important thing. Lincoln reminds us that “Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.” With that reminder, we note the deadly fires that continue to burn, without losing sight of how even in the midst of inferno, the human spirit and bonds of affection burn stronger.