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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 1:26 AM
Updated: Nov 16, 2018 1:26 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.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 96859

Reported Deaths: 2919
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7148160
DeSoto562361
Harrison388374
Jackson352170
Madison331289
Rankin330879
Lee274870
Forrest250075
Jones249879
Washington225977
Lafayette219340
Lauderdale2064125
Bolivar184766
Oktibbeha180152
Lamar172435
Neshoba1580104
Lowndes157958
Panola150731
Sunflower147346
Leflore141381
Warren140950
Pontotoc127916
Pike124051
Monroe123669
Copiah119233
Scott117627
Coahoma116229
Marshall111117
Lincoln110453
Holmes109859
Grenada109536
Yazoo106230
Simpson104746
Tate100638
Union99824
Leake96138
Adams94237
Wayne90521
Pearl River89453
Marion86835
Prentiss86317
Itawamba83121
Covington82723
Alcorn82311
George78213
Tallahatchie77421
Newton77324
Winston74219
Tishomingo69138
Chickasaw68524
Tippah67217
Attala67025
Clarke60346
Walthall60226
Clay59618
Hancock58822
Jasper57715
Noxubee55116
Smith53615
Calhoun52212
Tunica49715
Claiborne46516
Montgomery46520
Yalobusha43614
Lawrence43313
Perry42419
Greene38717
Humphreys37815
Quitman3775
Stone37512
Jefferson Davis34211
Webster33813
Amite33210
Carroll32012
Wilkinson30518
Kemper29015
Sharkey26613
Jefferson2439
Benton2283
Franklin1933
Choctaw1866
Issaquena1053
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 134231

Reported Deaths: 2357
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19752350
Mobile13449292
Montgomery8852184
Tuscaloosa8654118
Madison792778
Shelby601349
Lee592760
Baldwin552650
Marshall396143
Calhoun353444
Etowah352145
Morgan331428
Houston292021
Elmore267348
DeKalb243221
St. Clair233036
Walker231984
Talladega217129
Limestone211920
Cullman190720
Dallas179126
Franklin178129
Autauga177325
Russell17633
Lauderdale172333
Colbert166626
Blount161715
Escambia161124
Chilton158830
Jackson158111
Covington140327
Dale139244
Coffee13596
Pike120510
Chambers116842
Tallapoosa116485
Clarke110016
Marion96829
Butler91339
Barbour8857
Winston74512
Marengo72420
Pickens66614
Bibb65610
Lowndes65427
Randolph65413
Hale64428
Geneva6344
Lawrence62123
Cherokee61213
Bullock60614
Monroe5908
Clay5878
Washington55913
Perry5416
Crenshaw54032
Conecuh53611
Wilcox53211
Henry5075
Macon48318
Fayette4628
Sumter43819
Cleburne3825
Lamar3702
Choctaw35112
Greene30315
Coosa1723
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