California wildfires and their impact on TCU students



A tree casts embers as the North Complex Fire burns in Plumas National Forest, Calif., on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

By Alexandra Preusser

California and other northwest states are enduring record-breaking wildfires this season.

In California, wildfires have burned more than 3 million acres so far, an area larger than the state of Connecticut. One of the fires burned over 400,000 acres, the largest in California’s history.

There are more than 1,300 TCU students from California. Many of their families are now dealing with the wildfires.

McKenzie Mock, a senior nursing major from Marian County, said her parents own their own coffee shop. Business has been difficult, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, since no one wants to leave their house, Mock said.

Due to the fires, the California sky turned orange. (Photo courtesy of Makayla Soria)

Even though the wildfire season happens every year, Mock said it is still difficult to prepare for.

“We know that firefighters stock up during this time with a bunch of tanks nearby, more firefighters on call and community groups that will go help fight if they need more people,” Mock said. “A lot of people I know have food ready to pack up, but you can never really be prepared.”

Mock and her family are not new to the wildfires and have experienced this kind of devastation before.

“There was actually an experience two years ago where my uncle had to evacuate from his house, his house burned down and he had to stay at my house,” Mock said.

TCU alumna Makayla Soria is living in Fresno. She said people had to be rescued from their boats in Huntington Lake over Labor Day Weekend.

“When we woke up in the morning, it looked like there was a storm coming in, but it was just all smoke and you could see ash in the air,” Soria said. “You could look toward the mountain, and you just saw a huge fire and a huge orange flame.”

California residents find their cars covered in ash after the fires broke out. (Photo courtesy of Makayla Soria)

Even in the middle of a pandemic and wildfire season, the Fresno community is still finding ways to help each other, Soria said.

“For example, they had a donation drive at one of the local churches, and they sold out of water from Costco,” Soria said.

The church donated water, Gatorade, chapstick and eyedrops to the firefighters, and community members donated gas cards to the people driving the donations, Soria said.

“I guess it’s one positive way to look at it that after all of this is going on, that something so bad is bringing a community together,” Soria said.

According to Cal Fire, there is about a month left in wildfire season.