I met the “concerned chemist” while volunteering with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AICHE), conducting Interview workshops with engineering students who are about to graduate and interview for entry-level positions.

The workshops were based on the fact that some students would put their best foot forward when interviewing for entry-level positions.  Some of the senior members, myself included, with professional industry experience agreed to review resumes and conduct mock interviews to increase the student’s chance of success. 

The interview workshops occur on the campuses and, in many cases, are a great distance from where the workshops are conducted.  Additionally, the workshops occur on a weekend when most working professionals are taking time off to recharge.

All my colleagues enjoy giving back, however, things get busy and on occasion, a significant amount of time occurs where some of my colleagues do not have the time and/or availability to participate in the workshops. The usual reasons include family reasons, professional commitments, or health concerns.

I was not prepared for the reason for the “concerned chemists” absence. The reason was shocking and profound, I learned the “Concerned Chemist” had lost his home on the Campfires of 2017.   

                                                                           The Story

The “concerned chemist” was awakened at 1:30 AM on Monday morning, Oct. 9, 2017, by a person with a bull horn going down his street announcing, “major fire headed this way, evacuate immediately!!” With no electricity, cell phone service or internet working, he and his wife threw on some clothes, grabbed a few things, and headed out to an evacuation shelter. This would be the first of six places they would live over the next two months before finding a rental house in Santa Rosa. With the fire burning at 2500-3000 degrees F, according to firemen he spoke to personally, there was nothing left to salvage, although he raked through to debris for weeks looking, or at least trying to identify some of our lost belongings for the contents portion of the insurance claim.

The “concerned chemist” was the first person I know directly impacted by wildfires which are increasing in frequency and intensity as a result of Climate Change. Unfortunately, he will not be the last.

                                                                       The Aftermath

I would learn later that the “concerned chemist” was unable to rebuild his home in Santa Rosa and was forced to move out of San Francisco Bay area to be closer to his wife’s family.  I would have thought that is anyone had the means to rebuild it would be the “concerned chemist” who holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry and held various senior-level management positions over a technical career that has spanned over 30 years.  In this instance, climate change has impacted the lives of the educated and affluent. Seems to make the case for everyone to work together to created solutions sooner or later climate change will impact everyone regardless of their race or income. It’s just a matter of time.