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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA community reacts to SoCal fires

    Although the wildfires raging in Southern California are almost 500 miles away, UA students, officials and organizations are feeling the heat.

    Students from the areas ravaged by fire are contacting their families and loved ones to confirm their safety.

    The blazes are a stark reality for those who have families in the midst of evacuating their homes, said Cori Malin, a regional development junior.

    Malin’s mother had to be evacuated from Santa Clara after winds had pushed the fire into the area. Her cousins were put on evacuation notice in Stephenson Ranch, near Los Angeles, until the fires were contained there yesterday.

    More than 500,000 people have been evacuated in Southern California and approximately 1,500 homes destroyed as of press time last night, according to multiple news outlets.

    “”It’s hard, because I want to be there,”” Malin said. “”It’s scary because it’s real.””

    For Chase Budinger, an undeclared sophomore and forward for the UA men’s basketball team, the fires are reminiscent of a similar outbreak near San Diego in 2003 that killed 22 people and obliterated 3,460 homes.

    “”I just remember being up on a hill and watching houses getting burned and trees going up in flames,”” he said. “”It’s kind of scary just seeing that happen.””

    Although his parents have not yet been required to evacuate their home in Encinitas, Budinger still worries for their safety, as a wildfire is on the loose only minutes away.

    “”I’m calling them every two, three hours,”” he said yesterday afternoon. “”(The fire) is real close.””

    The Dean of Students Office is in the process of contacting students from the affected areas to determine whether they need any kind of assistance from the university, said Carol Thompson, senior vice provost of the dean of students.

    Though no students have contacted the office so far, the university is ready to help, said Johnny Cruz, director of media relations.

    “”The first step is to find out how students are being affected,”” he said. “”The second step is to take advantage with these resources.””

    Resources may include information about the fires, reaching family members in and around the action, seeking housing for family members or taking advantage of psychological services, Cruz said.

    Discussions among the Associated Students of the University of Arizona and organizations such as the Red Cross and World Care are ongoing to determine how to best serve the relief effort, said ASUA president Tommy Bruce.

    The response may be similar to ASUA’s reaction to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when the student government sent necessary supplies to New Orleans, Bruce said.

    Organizations from around the country are coming together to help displaced persons, including the American Red Cross’s Southern Arizona Chapter, said Amanda Thomas, the chapter’s public information manager.

    The chapter has activated 12 volunteers and two response vehicles to assist Southern California residents.

    UA President Robert Shelton visited Southern California on Sunday for a meeting.

    “”When I was out there this weekend, the winds were up to 80 mph,”” Shelton said. “”The winds were tremendous coming from the land to the ocean.””

    “”When we got to Oceanside, you could hardly see the ocean because there was so much debris,”” he said. “”When we drove on Highway 73, you could see the smoke and flames to the east.””

    Upon returning to the airport yesterday afternoon, Shelton said no blue sky was visible – only smoke.

    “”Unfortunately, these fires are not uncommon,”” said Shelton, who has lived in Southern California. “”They happen to a greater or lesser degree every year from the Santa Ana winds.””

    The Santa Ana winds are warm, dry gusts that pass through Southern California each year during fall and early winter. Typically powerful, this year’s winds reached 80 miles per hour on many occasions Sunday and was recorded as high as 111 mph, according to the New York Times.

    The gusts have since died down and are expected to be in the 30-mph range today, according to the Post-Bulletin in Rochester, Minn.

    Shelton expressed concern about UA students who are from the affected region.

    “”I sure hope the students who have family where the fires are have made contact with their family and made sure they are safe,”” he said.

    -Siobhan Daniel and Michael Schwartz contributed to this report.

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