ISHR Student is working to rebuild her community after Almeda Fires

Thursday, October 8, 2020

This past September, the Almeda fires blazed through Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon, leaving nothing but ash. Niria Alicia, M.A. in Human Rights Candidate, is a member of the community affected by the devastating fires. A few weeks ago, The New York Times wrote an article about the destruction the fires brought to Oregon.  

“I'm proud to come from this community. My mother is a farmworker and my father is a former wildland firefighter and tree planter who planted more than 12 million trees in the Pacific Northwest. My memories of this valley are clean water, fresh organic food and bountiful mountain air. I never thought my hometown would become a disaster zone but on September 8th my family, community and myself, along with more than 40,000 people in the Rogue Valley became climate refugees in our own hometown. We were at the mercy of the unforgiving Almeda Fire,” says Niria.

The 45mph winds and the 6% humidity created the perfect conditions for this firestorm that turned more than 3,000 structures into ash overnight, 75% of those structures were mobile homes, the only affordable housing in the county where a large majority of Latinx families lived. “In the wealthier neighboring town of Ashland folks received evacuation notices but meanwhile in the working-class neighboring towns of Talent and Phoenix where we also have a large percentage of the disabled and retired communities, no one received an emergency alert, no one,” continues Niria.
When evacuation orders were lifted, many were able to return but thousands of families became houseless. Niria’s mother was lucky, but her father lost everything. The Latinx community was hit the hardest. In Talent alone, it is estimated that more than 70% of our Latinx working-class families who lived in the mobile home parks are currently houseless.
Niria continued: “Many of our mixed-status families will not qualify and will not apply for federal aid because as some may know, FEMA is a department of Homeland Security and risking deportation on top of losing everything is not an option. With a 1% vacancy rate prior to the loss of thousands of homes and with the loss of income for many due to COVID-19, we are in a deeper crisis than what we could have fathomed. Yet in the midst of this so much hope has bloomed! Countless families and community members have stepped in to make sure our people don't go without the most immediate essentials.”
Niria Alicia and her friend, Erica Alexia, have organized a GoFundMe page to provide hyper local, neighborhood-specific relief to their community members in the mobile home communities of Talent, Phoenix, and Medford who lost everything to the fires.