Fire Recovery & Youth Health

44162019920 7fe79b631d cThe California Army National Guard clears debris in Paradise, California. Credit: U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman)
On the night of October 8, 2017, the Tubbs, Nuns and Pocket fires swept through Northern California, destroying more than three thousand homes, leveling neighborhoods and claiming 42 lives. At the time the Tubbs Fire hit Santa Rosa, it was the most destructive in California history. It has since been surpassed by the Camp Fire in Butte County, which destroyed more than 7,000 homes and killed 85 people. Over a year later, families throughout Northern California are still struggling from the initial trauma and the aftermath of these fires.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can lead to poor health outcomes later in life. The greater the number of adverse experiences a child endures, the more likely they will be to suffer from health conditions like asthma, diabetes, coronary heart disease and others. During natural disasters like wildfires, traumatic events are often compounded. This includes community-wide disruptions, loss of loved ones, displacement, and the ongoing stress of living in the same geographic area where the event is likely to happen again. Strengthening social support services may reduce the amount of trauma that youth would otherwise endure after devastating wildfires.

This series addresses these ongoing challenges of recovery and shares the lessons learned in both Santa Rosa and Paradise. As fires recur across California every season, it is important to understand the traumatic impact they can have on youth. While we may not be able to quickly change the trajectory of the climate, we can control the support networks we have in place for families who are devastated by these disasters.

Resources

The Wildfire Mental Health Collaborative offers a number of recovery resources and programs for Sonoma County residents. CLICK HERE for a list of recovery resources in Butte County.  

To learn more about helping children recover after natural disasters, visit the Natural Hazards Center children and disasters collection. 

This series was produced for the USC Annenberg Health Journalism Fellowship. 

Fire Recovery & Youth Health

  • September 17, 2019

    Trauma Can Drastically Impact School Attendance

    Driving to Paradise, you will pass a memorial for the 85 people who died in the Camp Fire. The crosses sit on a small knoll off Skyway, the four-lane road between Paradise and Chico. Almost everyone in town used this road to evacuate last November. The students in Paradise Unified School District,…
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    September 16, 2019

    Paradise School Counselors Address High Rates of PTSD Among Students

    Clinical social worker Laura Besser points to a mural outside the administration office at the new Paradise Elementary School. The students were relocated to this campus, which used to be the middle school, after their elementary school burned down in the Camp Fire. In the center of the mural is…
  • Kids writing
    September 14, 2019

    Educators Use Poetry to Help Kids Talk About Trauma

    Kids at Schaefer Elementary write their poems. Credit: Margo Perin. Third-grade teacher, Tracy Henry, points to an American flag hanging in her classroom at Schaefer Elementary. The flag is melted along the edges, it shows just how hot the classroom got when the Tubbs fire swept through Santa Rosa…
  • IMG 1653
    September 03, 2019

    Housing Insecurity Is Taking a Toll on Youth’s Health

    Miranda Hernandez and her mom, Adelina, stand inside their new home. Credit: Adia White. Standing in the Fountaingrove neighborhood, you can see the scar of the Tubbs fire stretch across the hillside. Two years later, the trees are still charred and the sounds of reconstruction are constant. Among…
  • IMG 1717
    August 23, 2019

    October 2017 Wildfires Are Affecting Crucial Health Programs

    Image: Ashley Vejar and son Angel. Photo courtesy of the subject. Kemberly Mahiri shows me one of the hundreds of thank you cards she and other counselors for Sonoma County's Teen Parent Program have received. “It just chokes me up every single time,” Mahiri tells me. The program currently has a…

Science & Health News

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    November 06, 2019

    Building Resilience After Tragedy

    Friday marks one year since the devastating Camp Fire. The anniversary, in addition to the Kincade Fire, will trigger traumatic memories for many in our community. But hardship can be used to build strength. Joyce-Mikal Flynn is a professor of nursing at California State University Sacramento and…
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    November 04, 2019

    Documentary "Men Caring" Honors Those Who Support Adults With Disabilities

    In his film, "Men Caring", Bill Chayes breaks down stereotypes about adults living with disabilities and their caregivers. One of the stereotypes he addresses is that caregivers are all female. The film follows three men who work with adults with disabilities and talks about the bonds they form…
  • Cinder Fire Butte
    October 25, 2019

    How to Prepare for Fires, Power Outages and Other Emergencies

    Have an Evacuation Plan Review Sonoma County's current incident page. This map will be updated to display the latest county emergency. It will not be active if there is no emergency. Review CAL FIRE'S evacuation guide and make a plan. Stay Up To Date Sign up for emergency notifications and monitor…
  • Screen Shot 2019 10 24 at 10.55.04 PM
    October 24, 2019

    California Burning Podcast: Using Fire to Protect Forests

    We take a look at fire prevention techniques that have been used in California for thousands of years. Matt Fidler, the creator of the podcast and radio series “California Burning” reports, that native Californians used fire to maintain the land and also their culture for thousands of years. Listen…
  • Merkel Tunis
    October 10, 2019

    Two Fire Survivors Remember Lost Mothers and Seek Support

    Tuesday. October 8, 5 pm. Santa Rosa Courthouse Square. A small group gathers to commemorate lives lost two years ago in the Sonoma Complex fire. News director Steve Mencher sought out two women who were moving through the crowd with purpose – Catharine Merkel seems almost serene. But she’s feeling…
  • UNADJUSTEDNONRAW thumb ad
    Oct 09, 2019

    Sonoma County Ridesharing Service Aims to Help Women Feel Safer

    A Sonoma County company wants to make ridesharing safer. “Women Driving Women” is based in Healdsburg and serves customers in both Sonoma and San…
  • Kids writing
    Sep 14, 2019

    Educators Use Poetry to Help Kids Talk About Trauma

    Kids at Schaefer Elementary write their poems. Credit: Margo Perin. Third-grade teacher, Tracy Henry, points to an American flag hanging in her…
  • IMG 1653
    Sep 03, 2019

    Housing Insecurity Is Taking a Toll on Youth’s Health

    Miranda Hernandez and her mom, Adelina, stand inside their new home. Credit: Adia White. Standing in the Fountaingrove neighborhood, you can see the…
  • IMG 1717
    Aug 23, 2019

    October 2017 Wildfires Are Affecting Crucial Health Programs

    Image: Ashley Vejar and son Angel. Photo courtesy of the subject. Kemberly Mahiri shows me one of the hundreds of thank you cards she and other…
  • SMART train
    Aug 01, 2019

    Officials Address Safety Along SMART Train Corridor

    Five people have been killed by the SMART train since June, three are believed to have died by suicide. County leaders are now looking for ways to…
  • prison jail barbed wire barbwire metal lockup cage 929009
    Jul 30, 2019

    Grand Jury Commends Sonoma County Jail Mental Health Program

    In Sonoma County, as elsewhere, jails increasingly serve as mental health facilities. In its yearly report, the Sonoma County Grand Jury commended a…
  • sofsfullpic
    Jun 29, 2019

    Summer of Space!

    NorCal Public Media brings you the universe with SUMMER OF SPACE, a multiplatform experience that includes a month full of science and history…
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    Jun 29, 2019

    Teenage Vaping on the Rise in Sonoma County

    In 2018 the U.S. surgeon general declared teenage vaping a national epidemic. Local publisher Sonoma West published an investigation into the growing…
  • opioid pills
    Jun 05, 2019

    Opioid Maker Insys Admits To Bribing Doctors, Agrees To Pay $225 Million Settlement

    GABRIELLE EMANUEL NPR Article Therapeutics, an opioid manufacturer, has agreed to pay $225 million to settle the federal government's criminal and…
  • Shirlee Zane Peter Kingston
    May 07, 2019

    Kaiser CEO Tyson Meets with Families on Mental Health

    In late April, Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane traveled to Kaiser Permanente headquarters in Oakland. She was there with a group of family…
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    May 03, 2019

    Opioid Epidemic in the Bay Area

    The opioid epidemic is devastating communities throughout the country. Northern California Public Media partners with regional public health agenies…
  • Philip
    Apr 30, 2019

    New Health Officer Tackles Measles and Other Top Concerns

    Sonoma County has a new Health Officer, responsible for overseeing the Department of Health Services. Dr. Celeste Philip started the job on April 9th…

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