Manchester Met student describes ‘apocalyptic’ scenes he witnessed in the California wildfires

  • California's deadliest wildfire on record
  • Menchester Met student describes what he saw while on tour with his band
  • Locals also give their account
  • Trump causes a stir on Twitter
  • Community response has been inspiring 

When Derrick Flanagin returned to his native USA to go on tour with his band the last thing he would have expected was to be caught up in the middle of a global news story. But that’s exactly what happened. 

32-year-old Derrick, who is originally from Boston, Massachusetts, is currently studying Multimedia Journalism at Manchester Metropolitan University. Last month, while travelling between shows with his band – Wrong, they would regularly have to make detours due to road closures and evacuations of large areas. 

The recent wildfires in California are the deadliest on record with 85 people confirmed to have died and over 11 unaccounted for. Having witnessed some of the dramatic scenes first hand, Derrick sat down with The Northern Quota to describe what he saw and to discuss the mood in the area in the aftermath of such a horrific disaster. 

A map showing the area of wildfire if it were in Manchester
Wildfire area if it were in Manchester 

Of the affected areas he drove through, Derrick said: “There were just tree stumps that were smouldering. A lot of trees that were still completely standing upright but all their leaves had burned off or there was a completely burnt field and then just the black remnants of a tree.”

While in San Francisco, the magnitude of the disaster became more evident: “San Francisco was horrible! There was so much smoke in the air. It seemed like dense morning fog but all day. Everyone had facemasks on – it was apocalyptic-looking.”

Campfire damage. A burnt telegraph pole
A telegraph pole held up by its wires having been engulfed by the fires – Photo: Tyler Day

Tyler Day, 22, is a student from Sacramento. He told The Northern Quota: “my college cancelled classes for a week because of the smoke and saw people wearing masks.”

Tyler, who’s also an amateur photographer, decided to capture some of the devastation. Despite the fact that most of the affected area was still closed off to the public he witnessed mass destruction: “I saw a lot of burned vehicles, a couple of boats in an RV park that was destroyed.”

Campfire, as it’s being called due to the fire’s place of origin – Camp Creek Road, has been headline news the world over. The tragic loss of life and devastation of homes, livelihoods and nature has prompted mass messages of pity and grief on social media. 

Damage caused by Campfire. A burnt car
An abandonded car left to be ravraged by the flames – Photo: Tyler Day

Somewhat predictably, however, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, decided to use social media differently. He attacked those whose job it is to manage the country’s forests and claimed that the blame lies with them.

This didn’t sit well with Derrick: “It was very strange the public reaction because there were a lot of people in the country blaming California for the wild fire.

“There are people who hang on his [Donald Trump] every word so when he says things like: ‘it’s the national forest’s fault’ people believe that.”

Damage caused by Campfire. A burnt boat
A boat and garage turned to ash – Photo: Tyler Day

Despite all the devastation and national unrest there have been some positives that can act as a small consolation. Alex Grant, a 21-year-old student at Chico State University described how the community spirit in the area has being inspiring.

Alex, the Managing Editor for student-run newspaper The Orion, said: “Through this whole process the Paradise, Magalia and neighbouring communities have really come together. The sense of community and generosity I’ve seen from people is nothing short of amazing.”