Quick Look: October Wildfires Cleanup Progress by the Numbers

It’s been more than a month since unprecedented wildfires ravaged communities throughout California beginning in October.  And, over the past several week’s it’s been our job to give you an inside look at their impact. We’ve done that with aerial video, pictures and sounds from the scene.

But, sometimes the statistics are the most revealing.  And one of the most important jobs of emergency management is gather facts and figures and making sense of them, not only to understand what’s happening, but to make some of the most important decisions in the middle of a crisis.

“We do that a number of ways,” says Caroline Thomas-Jacobs, Cal OES Chief of Response Systems Integration Branch. “We put it into operational dashboards, which you’ll see behind me on the SOC wall here.  We have charts.  We have pie graphs.  We’ve got radial dials.  We’ve got hard numbers.  That allows all of us working here at the State Operations Center to stay focused on what the meaningful information is so we can take the right actions.”

So, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at the numbers that tell a big part of the story, and give you a glimpse at some of the statistics that we found sobering and revealing.  More than 380 square miles burned. That’s more square miles than the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Fresno and Redding combined. 8,900 structures were burned and 44 fatalities (that’s up one from just this past week,) and over 75,000 people evacuated.

“We had over 10,000 folks responding to the fires,” says Thomas-Jacobs. “We also, at the very beginning of the fires, had over 600 schools closed and just under 300,000 students that were displaced.  That’s on top of the entire communities that had been evacuated and the folks that were in shelters and displaced from their homes.”

So now, the numbers shift to cleanup.  As of November 29th, crews have cleared 880 lots by removing more than 288,055 tons of debris.  Just this week, FEMA announced additional federal funding for public assistance programs for Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Orange and Yuba counties, federal funds that are critical to the countless recovery efforts that will be underway for weeks, months and years to come.

If you’d like more information you can visit our website at wildfirerecovery.org.

Shawn Boyd

Shawn Boyd joined Cal OES as a public information officer in 2014 after a 20-year career in television news as a reporter, anchor and executive producer. He's a Cal State Sacramento alum and former US Navy yeoman and Air Force brat.

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