When a group of strawberry farmers started to smell smoke and feel ashes from a nearby blaze, they fled and got fired for it.
More than a dozen farm workers walked off the job when smoke thickened and they started to feel the effects of a wildfire in Camarillo, Calif., on May 2. Their foreman warned them that if they left they would be fired, NBC Los Angeles reports.
“Oh, yeah, the smoke was very bad. That’s no doubt about that,” Lauro Barrajas, of the United Farm Workers, told the news outlet.
Another worker described ashes falling on them and it was “hard to breathe.”
At first, a representative from Crisalida Berry Farms in Oxnard, Calif., said the workers left without permission while orders still had to be fulfilled, but the company would pay them for the hours they had worked that day.
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Now, the United Farm Workers, which represents the farmers, and Crisalida Berry Farms say the firing was a misunderstanding, AP reports.
“These workers were not fired, and we welcome them back on our farm,” Dave Murray at Crisalida Berry Farms said in a statement. A union official said only one woman has indicated she will return, according to the Ventura County Star.
The Camarillo wildfire that started on May 2 occupied 44 square miles and damaged 15 homes. Investigators said the cause of the wildfire may have been accidentally caused by a piece of metal that fell into tinder-dry bush, AP reports.
This was one of more than 680 California wildfires this year during a season that has seen about 200 more than average.