Here’s How You Can Help People Affected by the West Coast Wildfires
California, Oregon, and Washington need our support.
As of this morning, September 11th, the West Coast has lost millions of acreage to wildfires and at least 15 people have lost their lives. More than 100 wildfires are raging throughout 12 western states, with California, Oregon, and Washington seeing the most damage. Unprecedented flames have caused immediate emergency situations within a matter of day, which have forced thousands from their homes and into evacuation centers amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Many have already lost everything they own, some residents of places like Malden, Washington, have watched their entire town burn to the ground, and some have family members who are still missing.
"We have never seen this amount of uncontained fire across the state," Oregon Governor Kate Brown said, per BBC. "This will not be a one-time event. Unfortunately, it is the bellwether of the future. We're feeling the acute impacts of climate change." 10% of Oregon's population has been told to evacuate as of Thursday, September 10th.
The August Complex Fire in Northern California, meanwhile, is the largest fire the state has ever seen, The New York Times reports. Caused by lightening in the Mendocino National Forest, and having already claimed one life, the fire has spread across 471,000 acres—12,000 more acres than 2018's Mendocino Complex wildfire.
With months still left in the 2020 West Coast wildfire season, individuals and communities are scrambling to figure out what comes next once the smoke clears. Luckily, those of us who are not directly affected can help our fellow Americans.
Here's how to help those impacted by the ongoing West Coast wildfires:
Donate to those on the front lines delivering aid.
American Red Cross volunteers have deployed into all three states currently battling the worst of the wildfires. The organization is providing shelter, meals, and general care for those who have escaped the blaze, and along with donated funds, the Red Cross is also looking for more volunteers to help care for those in need.
The Salvation Army is also delivering food, water, and emotional support to first responders, survivors, and evacuees in Northern California and is need of financial aid to keep the relief coming.
United Way of Northern California, Whitman County, and Jackson County are donating emergency cash grants to those who have lost property in the wildfires. While they wait for funds, United Way urges those affected to contact the American Red Cross for immediate help and directions.
Directly help those who have been injured and suffered loss.
Jake and Jamie Hyland and their toddler son were visiting their rural property in Okanogan, Washington, when they were trapped by the Cold Spring Fire. They managed to escape the flames by taking refuge in a nearby river, where they were later rescued and airlifted to a local hospital. Sadly, their son Uriel did not survive, and both Jake and Jamie, who is pregnant each are suffering from major medical issues and require financial assistance to cover their medical costs. You can donate to their GoFundMe page here.
A friend of Darrell Sales, a firefighter in the San Jose area, is raising money for Sales after Sales lost his property to the Santa Cruz Mountains fire. You can give to Sales here.
Mike Fournier was a pilot delivering water to a brush fire in the Central California Hills when his plane crashed. It took rescue crews over six hours to find the crash site and recover Fournier's remains. He is survived by two daughters and his family is accepting donations through this GoFundMe page.
GoFundMe has hundreds of pages up for those affected by the West Coast wildfires, so feel free to scroll through and give help where it is most needed.
Give to GoFundMe's official California Wildfire Relief Fund.
GoFundMe.org, the nonprofit and charitable branch of GoFundMe, will donate the funds raised for its Wildlife Relief Fund to "individuals, organizations, and communities that have either been impacted themselves or are dedicated to helping those affected by wildfires," per the Fund's page. The page has already raised over $60,000 of its $70,000 goal.
The GoFundMe Wildfire Relief Fund also shares GoFundMe links to help specific regions that are suffering from wildfire damage (Oregon Fire Relief, Northern California Fire Relief, Washington Fire Relief, etc.) and "hub" donation pages where your donation will be put toward multiple organizations in need of aid.
Help the families of firefighters battling the flames.
The California Fire Foundation provides "emotional and financial assistance to families of fallen firefighters and the communities they protect" and gives further aid to "victims, firefighters, and communities that are affected by natural disaster," such as the California wildfires.
Furthermore, the Foundation's specific Supplying Aid to Victims of Emergency (SAVE) program "brings immediate, short-term relief to those who have lost their homes as a result of fire and other natural disasters throughout California."
During a natural disaster, SAVE gift cards valued at $250 can be directly handed from the responding firefighters to victims on scene. During the 2018 California wildfire season, more than 10,000 SAVE cards, totaling more than $2.6 million, were given to victims in need.
Donate hygiene materials through Project Beauty Share.
Project Beauty Share has teamed up with local officials to help send hygiene items to families displaced by the fires throughout Washington State and surrounding affected areas. Items to donate can be purchased through Project Beauty Share's Amazon wishlist, or you can mail items like razors, shampoo, conditioners, deodorant, and soap, to the headquarters in Spokane.
Send funds to those helping affected animals.
Organizations like the Central California Animal Disaster Team is currently responding to the Creek Fire, which is currently only 6% contained and has spread across more than 173,000 acres across Fresno and Madera Counties. The CCADT is offering evacuation assistance to those with large farm animals and keeping residents updated on which shelters and animal hospitals are open and accepting animals, both large and small.
In Oregon, the Northwest Dog Project is helping residents in evacuation zones get their dogs and other larger animals out safely. You can get updates about its services on its Facebook page and make a donation on its website.
RedRover.org is a great resource for those who need information about evacuating their animals and taking care of injured wild animals ahead of wildfire spread. The org also issues grants to those who seek financial assistance for pet-related medical aid.
Help prepare for the aftermath and recovery.
The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) Disaster Recovery Fund helps communities affected by natural disaster prepare for the recovery process. You you donate, you can "target contributions to meet specific philanthropic goals for any domestic disaster to support medium- to long-term recovery work." Or, you can give a lump sum that will be allocated to investments where aid is most needed.
The CDP has also created a Wildfires Recovery Fund, which has donated $3 million in grants to northern and southern California communities who suffered wildfire damage in the past. The Fund also focuses on wildfire mitigation measures to help prepare and ward off potential wildfire damage in the future.
Contact your local officials about the importance of paying attention to and curbing climate change.
According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, "climate change has been a key factor in increasing the risk and extent of wildfires in the Western United States." Research shows that climate change has made the Western United States a drier, warmer, and drought-ridden location—all factors that heighten wildfire risk and widespread damage. In fact, projections show that a 1-degree C temperature increase in the Western U.S. "would increase the median burned area per year as much as 600 percent in some types of forests."
Climate change is real—the facts and figures don't lie. Contact your local elected officials and ask them what they plan to do to curb the effects of global warming and climate change because we are quite literally running out of time and resources to fight back.