Farmworkers Weather Risks in Oxnard’s Strawberry Fields During Thomas Fire

A farmworker fights the Thomas Fire on December 7, 2017 near Fillmore, California. (Credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

A farmworker fights the Thomas Fire on December 7, 2017 near Fillmore, California. (Credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

As the Thomas fire raged in the hills above Oxnard, shops were empty and streets were silent. Smoke shrouded the seaside town, making it dangerous to breathe without respirators, according to public health officials.

But in the vast strawberry fields outside town, work continued as usual.

Many farmworkers didn’t have face masks until days after public health officials declared the air hazardous, according to labor right groups, which distributed more than 2,000 respirators.

Their move was welcomed by workers in the berry fields, but angered the growers, according to Lucas Zucker, a labor activist who said he was kicked off a farm Dec. 7 while trying to deliver face masks.

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