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Stress Headaches and Fluttering Heartbeats. The Kincade Fire is Eroding Mental Health.

Direct Relief's emergency response team hands off medical supplies to staff at the Petaluma Health Center in response to the Kincade Fire. (Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)
Direct Relief's emergency response team hands off medical supplies to staff at the Petaluma Health Center in response to the Kincade Fire. (Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)

The Kincade Fire has displaced more than 200,000 people in Northern California’s wine country, upending the lives of residents across Sonoma County. As the fire continues to blaze, evacuees grapple with uncertain futures. Many don’t know if their homes are still standing or when, if ever, they’ll be able to return.

For agricultural workers⁠—the region’s economic backbone—the fire poses more ominous questions about the future. These workers rely on the land for work. If this land is destroyed, so is their livelihood.

These kinds of uncertainties have heightened anxiety amongst evacuees, causing physical health problems to emerge. Headaches, heart palpitations, and high blood pressure are just some of the symptoms medical staff are seeing in their patients.

On this episode of our podcast, we speak with Pedro Toledo of the Petaluma Health Center, whose staff is combating anxiety-induced health problems through mental health services. The health center has staffed multiple shelters across the city with behavioral health providers who are helping evacuees work through their stress.

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