Wildfires and their impact on Skyline College students

Many SMCCCD students, faculty and staff are facing more than just poor quality from the recent wildfires

Many Skyline College students, faculty and staff have been impacted by the frequent campus closures and poor air quality due to the high number of wildfires that have occurred in recent months.

NBC News reported that the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection stated that there have been more than 8,200 fires this year, and that these fires collectively have burned more than 4 million acres. According to multiple sources, the wildfires this year are record-breaking, and wildfire season is still not over.

“It goes back to our basic needs, so students, faculty, and staff have been impacted, with housing, being able to have secure spaces to go to, (or) not knowing where they are going to lay their heads next,” said Tykia Warden, Executive Director for the San Mateo County Community Colleges Foundation (SMCCCF).

Warden pointed out that students financial ability to access food was impacted as well. She also addressed the impact the fires have had on students’ ability to get to and from classes they may be enrolled in.

“I know we are (learning remotely) right now in the college district, but some students still have to come to campus for some courses, so (we’re) working with those students who might have transportation issues due to fires,” Warden said.

Eligible Skyline students that have been affected by the wildfires can now apply for a wildfire emergency fund.

The SMCCCD website said on their website that the San Mateo Community College Foundation released an emergency wildfire fund on August 28 for Skyline students who have been affected by the recent wildfires. This will benefit students who have had to evacuate and need financial assistance.

Both Michelle Batista, the Director of Student Support at Skyline College, and the SMCCCD website said that in order for Skyline students to be eligible, they have to be taking one or more units the fall 2020 semester. Batista also said that applicants have to reside in an area that has been impacted by the wildfires.

“I mean all of us were impacted … (by) the smoke from the fires the last couple of weeks, as far as our air quality and our physical health,” Batista said. “However, this fund was for students whose housing situations or livelihoods were affected.”

She also said that in order to qualify, students would have to either have lost their homes to a fire or evacuated by order of the appropriate authorities.

“I think quick access to these funds (can) help them pay for motels, hotels, (and) food,” Batista said. “Because people have had to evacuate from their homes so quickly, it’s possible that they weren’t able to go to work, so they also were impacted by their own livelihood.”

According to Dafna Kapshud, Marketing and Communications Manager of SMCCCF, there are things we can do to better prepare for wildfires.

“I think for students, and for all of us, it is important to have a plan in place,” Kapshud said. “Know where your loved ones are, know how to contact people if something happens with a fire. … Know where all your important documents are, and have second copies of them, and a go-bag during fire season.”