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Helping Local Communities Affected by Wildfires

Author: Rieve (USA, Young Reporter)

Natural disasters have long been known to wreak havoc on civilizations around the world. The Tsunami of 2011 in Japan killed nearly 16,000 people and devastated well over a million homes. Hurricane Katrina ravaged Southern Louisiana, leading to over 1,800 deaths and about 125 billion dollars worth of damage. These disasters easily become top headlines within a matter of hours, and rightfully so. But what about other disasters that aren’t quite so deadly to the world but still deeply harm local communities?

In 2020, Oregon witnessed one of its worst wildfire seasons to date. It burned over a million acres of land and killed at least 11 people. Even though national news coverage seemed to breeze over the top of it, local communities still struggled both economically and ecologically. Small cities such as Gates, Lyons, Donald, and Detroit lost hundreds of homes during the pinnacle of the fire. The money needed for all of the repairs would end up costing the poor cities more than they could pay on their own.

What’s more, fish in the major lakes and waterways suffocated from the smoke and ended up decreasing in numbers drastically. Billions of trees were killed by the 2020 Wildfires (about 3.5% of trees growing in the state of Oregon). Many of the people I talked to who once had homes over there also said that the lack of trees increased the likelihood of erosion because the healthy soil which had once been helping sustain the trees was now devoid of vital nutrients that helped keep it thriving. The now unhealthy soil became powdery and quickly shifted into the waterways, causing harm to life in the water.

When my CEI team was discussing ideas for projects that would make an impact in our community, this problem continued to come up. We decided that we could try to repair a little part of the damage that the wildfires had caused. Mr. Dan Hoynacki (who continues to be avidly involved in CEI) graciously donated some young Douglas Fir Trees for us to transplant in Detroit. We came to his house and dug up all of the trees we could. We transported them to a friend whose cabin and land had been damaged by the fires. She delivered the trees to her property and planted them. Their roots will hopefully help rejuvenate the soil and prevent erosion. We hoped that this would help give back to our environment and our community.

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