In this Nov. 8, 2018 photo, firefighters battle the Camp Fire as it tears through Paradise, Calif. Rain in the forecast starting Nov. 21, could aid crews fighting Northern California’s deadly wildfire while raising the risk of debris flows and complicating efforts to recover remains. The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch Wednesday for the decimated town of Paradise and nearby communities. Photo: Noah Berger, FRE / Associated Press
Houstonians know what it feels like to lose a home. We know the devastation of leaving behind everything and returning to find nothing. Over the years we have learned when to hunker down and when to evacuate.
After surviving Hurricane Harvey, Houstonians can understand the horrors endured by the 250,000 California residents under evacuation orders in the face of the deadliest wildfires in the state’s history.
The death toll approaches and by some measures surpasses Harvey levels. Hundreds are still missing. More than 10,000 homes have been destroyed.
Natural disasters on this scale, whether brought on by unrelenting floodwaters or uncontrollable flame, can no longer be considered mere regional tragedies. The Camp, Woolsey and Hill fires are, just like Harvey, national crises that demand a national response.
Houston, we’ve been here before, and recently. That’s why Texans need to lead the call for a national recovery effort in California.
It means hearing survivors’ stories and sharing in their pain. It means donating to charities like the California Fire Foundation or the United Way of Northern California, or even by texting ‘buttefire’ to 91999 on a mobile phone.
And, most important , it means supporting a robust congressional recovery package.
The need is intense and it is immediate. Entire towns have been reduced to ash and rubble. Shelters are already full, and many who’ve fled their homes have nowhere to go. Too many renters had their entire worldly possessions destroyed only to learn their insurance didn’t cover fire — a tragedy Houston’s apartment dwellers learned about flood coverage.
The scale of destruction is difficult to fathom. California Gov. Jerry Brown has compared it to a war zone. Photographs depict an eerie, apocalyptic landscape. Survivors describe running on foot through a freeway paralyzed with traffic to escape the approaching wall of fire.
(Anyone who tried to evacuate during Hurricane Rita can imagine what that must have been like.)
Texas and California enjoy a heated and sometimes humorous rivalry. Now is no time for such games. California’s struggle is our struggle — literally.
And in Texas, we know that only a federal response can offer the resources California needs right now.
More than a year has passed since Harvey, and Texas still requires further federal funding to help us recover and rebuild a truly resilient Gulf Coast. Any California recovery bill will provide an avenue for more funds. And, in the long run, all these disasters point to the need for a national effort to harden our communities in the face of climate change.
After Harvey, the Houston delegation had to fight uphill to get our package to the president’s desk. We shouldn’t want California — or anyone — to face the same barriers. No American should have to fight Congress to get what they need after a disaster.