With more than 1,400 fires engulfing the forests of California, President George W. Bush has designated areas from Nevada to the Pacific Ocean an official federal disaster area, allowing FEMA to dispatch equipment and financial relief to the counties that have been devastated by the blazes. So far more than 17,000 firefighters from more than 35 states are currently battling the fires with nearly 1,200 fire engines and 85 helicopters.
Given the unprecedented amount of fires raging throughout the state, the air in Northern California has been reduced to an unhealthy smog of ash causing the cancellation of athletic activities and other outdoor events. Some regions are registering the worst air quality on record with smoke from the fires ascending to the ground levels like a fog. Air quality departments are concerned about small-particle pollution in which tiny particles can penetrate the immunity system and burrow deep into the lungs and blood stream. Health officials have reported an increase in eye and throat irritation and have warned that the poor air can cause asthma attacks and bronchitis.
The raging fires are putting a damper on Independence Day celebrations as well. To see how,
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in a bid to help firefighters has requested that residents do not purchase or use fireworks for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday. Said the Governor: “I know that the people that are selling all this stuff are going to go crazy now when I say this, but don’t buy fireworks.” This request has sparked its own controversy from groups and charities that rely on sales of fireworks to keep their organizations running. A high school coach said: “We can make $3,000, $4,000, up to $5,000 a year. It’s a huge chunk of change for us.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) foreshadowed a season of blazes saying, "It is hot, and the state is tinder-dry. This will be a long fire season."