Wildfire Prompts Evacuation at Magic Mountain Amusement Park
The climate crisis is now invading amusement parks.
"I was getting iced coffee and when I walked outside, ash was raining down on me," Rachel Gallat, who was visiting a friend who works at the park, told The Associated Press of the experience. "There was a big cloud of smoke. I saw people around me panicking; they didn't know where they were supposed to go."
RAW VIDEO: A brush fire burning in Valencia has spurred the evacuation of @SixFlags Magic Mountain. (video credit:… https://t.co/wkUmeWmsJa— CBS Los Angeles (@CBS Los Angeles)1560110794.0
Climate change has driven an increase in the severity and frequency of fires in the Western U.S., extended the fire season in some areas and nearly doubled the amount of land burned in the last 35 years, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Sunday's evacuations came after the Sky Fire ignited around noon near Valencia, California, sending smoke into the sky that made the air near the amusement parks unsafe to breathe, according to NBC News. Magic Mountain is the nation's 14th busiest amusement park and averages 9,200 visitors a day. Hundreds headed to the exit following the evacuation order, The Associated Press reported.
"Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor are currently being evacuated due to the Sky Incident brush fire. The safety and well being of our guests and team members is our top priority," the parks' management said at about 12:30 p.m., as NBC News reported.
Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor are currently being evacuated due to the Sky Incident brush fire. T… https://t.co/79SmDDrkVL— Six Flags MM (@Six Flags MM)1560108811.0
Firefighters had the fire 50 percent contained as of 9:30 p.m. Sunday, The Los Angeles Times reported. It had burned 40 acres and sent nine people to the hospital due to smoke exposure. No structures were damaged.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department did not order the park evacuations.
"Magic Mountain is evacuating, but they are doing it on their own," supervising dispatcher Melanie Flores told The Los Angeles Times. "We did not tell them to do this."
Fire officials actually told park guests to shelter in place about half an hour after the initial evacuation order because of road closures blocking the park exit, The Associated Press reported. Guests were told to wait in the back of the property while firefighters attacked the fire near the front.
LA County fire has asked all guests to remain at the park. The exit roads are temporarily closed. We will advise when they open.— Six Flags MM (@Six Flags MM)1560111441.0
Shalane Gonzales, a 34-year-old park visitor, was directed back to the parking lot when she tried to pick up her partner and two sons at the entrance.
"The fire was feet away from where we were," she told The Associated Press.
Once the roads were reopened, the park closed for the day. It should reopen Monday at 10:30 a.m., The Los Angeles Times reported.
The outbreak of the fire coincided with the first summer heat wave in southern California.
Very warm temperatures on track today for the mountains, valleys, and deserts due to gusty offshore winds. Highs ex… https://t.co/YtwtnUGm0S— NWS Los Angeles (@NWS Los Angeles)1560099311.0
"Temperatures at Magic Mountain were between 93 and 96," National Weather Service in Oxnard meteorologist Kathy Hoxsie told The Los Angeles Times. "Overall, we're looking at 10 percent humidity, gusts up to 35 mph in some places, and temperatures up 10 degrees from yesterday — so, we're definitely hitting critical fire conditions."
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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