Devastating fires have broken out up and down the west coast from California to Washington, leading to lost lives and homes. Here are several ways you can make a difference for those affected.

By Maressa Brown
September 10, 2020
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Burak Arik/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

In January, the destruction of brushfires in Australia left the world aghast. Now, photos of smoke-filled skies and uncontrolled blazes in California, Oregon, and Washington state are spurring the same reactions. Although California has yet to reach peak fire season, 3.1 million acres have already burned in 2020—more than any year on record, according to Cal Fire. They also report that there have been 12 fatalities and over 3,900 structures destroyed in the Golden State alone.

Meanwhile, Oregon Governor Kate Brown said in a press briefing this week that their state's death toll, which is currently at three, will likely exceed any the state has seen from wildfires in its history. And in Washington, after almost 350,000 acres burned in a 24-hour period in early September, Governor Jay Inslee said, "More acres burned ... than in 12 of the last 18 entire fire seasons in the state of Washington."

The devastation appears to be the latest reminder that climate change will continue to rear its ugly head. The Climate Council, an independent, community-funded climate organization, points out that we're now dealing with more dangerous, longer brushfire seasons, drought, drier fuels and soils, and record-breaking heat as a result of the climate crisis. And a study published in July 2019 concluded that "human-caused warming has already significantly enhanced wildfire activity in California ... and will likely continue to do so in the coming decades."

Here are several ways you and your family can help.

Support the Firefighters

The California Fire Foundation's Supplying Aid to Victims of Emergency (SAVE) program provides critical support to surviving families of fallen firefighters, firefighters, and the communities they serve. The organization provides $250 gift cards to eligible victims.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department Foundation has a donations page for "supporting our paramedics, firefighters, lifeguards and other personnel along with important community programs."

Meals of Gratitude sends meals to firefighters, as well as evacuees and volunteers providing frontline support.

Donate to Relief and Recovery Funds

United Way of Northern CaliforniaWhitman County in Washington and Jackson County in Oregon are providing emergency cash grants to those who lost their homes.

United Way Bay Area has a wildfire relief fund to provide immediate and long-term recovery assistance to Bay Area and Central Coast residents.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy is allocating funds to support fire victims' rehousing and income recovery, which is sure to be especially challenging given the pandemic.

In all three states, the Red Cross is providing meals, health services, comfort and other support for affected residents. The organization is also hoping to enlist volunteers to help during wildfire season.

The California Community Foundation is taking donations to support immediate needs for victims such as shelter, food, and cash, as well as long-term recovery efforts.

The Salvation Army's Emergency Disaster Services teams are deploying in canteens, or mobile kitchens, to provide food, hydration, emotional comfort, and more.

GoFundMe.org, the nonprofit and charitable arm of GoFundMe, has set up a Wildfire Relief Fund to issue grants to individuals, organizations, and communities that have either been impacted themselves or are dedicated to helping those affected by wildfires.

During fire responses, nonprofit organization Direct Relief provides N-95 masks, medicine, and other resources to healthcare agencies and first responders in wildfire-affected communities across California. All donations are used exclusively to fund fire relief efforts in California.

An online marketplace focused on disaster relief, Everest Effect allows you to buy baskets of supplies requested by fire victims in real time.

Donations to GlobalGiving’s California Wildfire Relief Fund go to funding the relief efforts of local organizations, as well as food, medicine, and other essential supplies to help people impacted by the fires.

Give Funds to Aid Affected Animals

VEMAnet, the Volunteers for the Emergency Management of Animals Network, provides assistance to animal owners in times of urgency.

Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation has a disaster relief fund. Donations support the delivery of animal welfare supplies to disaster-stricken areas, urgent medical care for cats and dogs who have been evacuated, critical medical supplies (burn cream, bandages and medication) to disaster-stricken areas, and more.

Stand Up for Long-Term Change

If you use Chrome as your browser, you can use Ecosia as your search engine, and profits will go to plant trees where they're needed most, helping reduce the carbon dioxide load.

Contact your federal representatives and demand action on climate change.

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