Leena Anqud: On Fire

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Fire season is winding down, for now, but will be back soon enough and with it the loss of homes and business, the dirty air, the mortal danger. Leena Anqud says the new normal isn’t normal at all.

I have always wanted a snow day. Waking up to a chilled house, needing only a quick glance out the window to know that there wouldn’t be school that day. Math and English lessons would be replaced by snowball fights with the neighborhood kids. I am 17 and will never experience a snow day. It doesn’t snow where I live in California. When the weather causes my school to close, it’s because my state is on fire.

Instead of cold, I’ve felt uncomfortably hot. I’ve felt my eyes sting and my lungs fill with ash. I’ve felt the fear that everything I love could be diminished to dust by a strong gust of wind.

Lately, I’ve noticed a change in the way the people around me react to these disasters. My mother used to race around the house gathering anything of value to pack into a small satchel, ready to grab and go if things went wrong. She doesn’t do that anymore.

We’ve grown accustomed to the time of year coined “fire season,” and our fear has lessened.


When California catches on fire again, I am surrounded by grumbles and groans. Fires and smoke have been reduced to an inconvenience. Daily life interrupted by poor air quality. Everyone dreads fire season. It’s become normal to dread fire season.

But what happens almost every year in my home state is not normal, and we need to stop pretending that it is.

California’s fires are fueled by climate change, and by not addressing climate change, things will get worse. The way fires are dealt with is dismal at best. Rather than implementing preventative initiatives to slow global warming and lessen the chance of fire catching, we handle problems as they happen. Our electricity is turned off. We are told to formulate evacuation plans. That is the best we can hope for.

We must do better. At this point in time, emphasis needs to be placed on slowing the rate of climate change. On regional, national and global levels the Earth, our home, must take priority.

I’m tired of missing school because of poor air quality. I’m tired of the smoke in my lungs and the ash in my hair. I’m tired of these disasters becoming a normal part of my year.

With a Perspective, I’m Leena Anqud.

Leena Anqud is a senior at Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon.