Ash’s Climate Story


Ash Wright


Los Angeles, CA (90046)

How are you sensing climate change?

The middle school I went to was nestled on top of a hill: sat among brush and trees with an entire view of the San Fernando Valley below. Sixty-six acres of trees and blacktop pavement, my middle school had become symbiotic to the wildlife around it. In class, we spent time gazing out the wide-paned windows to catch deer and bobcats stalk the barren mountains outside instead of study the math worksheets and history books in front of us.

The middle school I went to was, also, largely out of the way for our daily commute as a family. That picturesque view of the San Fernando Valley did include my house, just maybe fifteen miles away from it. If I tried hard enough, I might’ve been able to spot my neighborhood through the Los Angeles haze all of the times I stood at the edge of the hill and squinted into the valley below it. In short, getting to middle school daily was its’ own sort of mission. We passed the time with activities like morning shows and car games. I typed emails to coworkers or organized business calls at the behest of my mom, over eight years of primary and middle school, we got into a rhythm.

So the morning it took over an hour to get through the Sepulveda Pass, it was clear there was something outside of us having a faulty rhythm. The congestion was, what we later found out, part of stoppages across the 405 freeway — the most major north-south highway in Southern California — and all adjacent streets as a result of fires surrounding the J. Paul Getty Museum, under five miles away from my school. The Getty fire burned more than 600 acres and resulted in a week off of school; but it didn’t stop there. It became only one example of a yearly trend, where my friends on the east coast got snow days, we began to have fire days.

Now, wildfire season has extended to the other end of the San Fernando Valley in a way that worsens year by year. Los Angeles is already regularly experiencing extreme droughts, but the progression of fire season has done little to help. The city is notoriously dry with high pressure winds across the desert and coastal mountains in an event that strengthens by the decade, making the spread of these wildfires vast. Now, there is a portion of the year where bags sit open in our living room, we check the pantry to see whether we have enough goods in the worst-case-scenario, and field calls from family members nationwide to tell them fires haven’t hit close enough for us to evacuate, yet; and we sleep knowing that there is always that possibility. That it gets more probable in each passing year.

How do these changes make you feel?

It’s sometimes worrying to think about how close I have constantly been to wildfire zone. Two years ago, a friend who I bonded with over living on the same side of the valley told me she had to evacuate during the Saddleridge fires which happened around fifteen minutes away from where I live. As an anxious person, it’s become stressful to hold space in my mind for all the ways my family would need to prepare if we had to evacuate.

Los Angeles, CA 90046

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