California Wildfires Threaten Booksellers

Written by Morgan Southworth

The California wildfires have been particularly brutal this year, and they’re not over yet. As of December 11, Southern California wildfire Thomas is larger than the size of New York City and only about 20% has been contained. Granted, it’s only one of six fires in the state that have destroyed more than 1,000 structures. Hundreds of thousands of acres have already been consumed by the flames. Human safety is obviously the first priority on everyone’s minds. However, one issue that seems to be near the bottom of people’s lists is the threat of fire for California booksellers.

Your business is your source of income, and while you may love a book with all your heart, that does not stop the pages from being very flammable—no matter how much we may weep or laugh over a heartfelt story and wish otherwise. According to Publishers Weekly, California booksellers are struggling to keep their doors open, and some have closed altogether in the wake of the fire. There’s a lot of worry on everyone’s minds—friends and family’s safety, the security of people’s homes, preparations to evacuate, etc. Booksellers in particular are worrying about the welfare of their livelihood as well.

Even if the fires don’t reach some bookseller’s doors directly, smoke can still damage their stock. Smoke and ash tend to cling to the pages of books, and these pollutants are difficult to remove. If the damage is bad enough, some books may have to be thrown away all together, forcing owners to order more stock with money they don’t have because they’ve lost business in the evacuations and temporary closings. In this holiday preparatory period, sales usually go up, not down. Even after the fires are successfully contained, there’s going to be some worry on these bookseller’s minds for a while, especially in regards to income and repairing the damages.

Shoppers who live downwind of the fires—who would normally be out and about this time of year—are often staying inside now due to the poor quality of the air. Health and safety should be at the top of everyone’s lists until the danger passes, but bookstores in the California fire area will see ramifications from these fires for months to come.

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