[Crisis Relief]

8 Ways to Help People Affected by the California Wildfires

By: Maria Minsker

As three separate wildfires continue to engulf communities in California and firefighters work tirelessly to contain them, the area is in desperate need of support from the rest of the country. The Camp, Woolsey and Hill fires have destroyed tens of thousands of homes and displaced roughly 300,000 residents. The Camp fire alone has decimated 6,700 structures and claimed the lives of 44 people, making it California’s most destructive wildfire to date, and the deadliest in history.

With an official state of emergency declared, federal funds will start flowing into the state to support local efforts, but there are several things you can do to help, too. From opening your home to evacuees and firefighters, to donating diapers, here are eight ways to give California the aid it needs.

1. Raise Funds for Hydration Backpacks 

The Los Angeles Fire Department has been on the front lines battling flames and working to contain them. The Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation supports the brave first responders and is accepting donations on their behalf. If you live in California, the organization is happy to accept water bottles, but currently the group says the best way to help is to donate funds, which will be used specifically for the purchase of hydration backpacks for firefighters.

2. Donate Items for Babies

If you’re based around the Los Angeles area, Baby2Baby is collecting diapers, formula, blankets, bottles, pacifiers and other baby items at their headquarters. If you’re elsewhere in the country, the organization also accepts monetary donations online. The donations will be used to help families purchase items for children ages 0 to 12.

3. Help the Humane Society Save Animals

From pets being left behind as residents evacuate, to forest animals fleeing as the trees burn, animals are also falling victim to these horrific fires. The Humane Society of Ventura County is working to rescue and take in animals from the affected areas—help them provide care by purchasing an item from their Amazon Wish list, or donating directly to their site. The organization has also said that it’s in urgent need of 40-gallon horse water troughs and horse electrolytes. They are also accepting local donations at their shelter on Bryant St. in Ojai.

4. Volunteer 

If you’re in California, you can find an opportunity to volunteer through California Volunteers. Use the locator tool to identify the closest area that can benefit from your efforts. Even just a few hours of your time can give someone a long overdue break or bring fresh energy during a difficult time. Whether you’re helping sort donations or setting up shelters for new evacuees, you’ll be making a massive difference.

5. Open Your Home to Evacuees and Firefighters

Airbnb has activated its Open Homes Program to connect property owners in Ventura county with evacuees, first responders, and volunteers that need a place to stay. So far, over 700 homes have been made available. If you’re in the affected areas and can open your home, list it through Airbnb.

6. Bring Food to Pantries

Some local shelters are overwhelmed with evacuees. Help feed them by donating non-perishables to local food banks, but first find out which locations accepting donations. The outpouring of support has been immense, so while some shelters and banks are in need, others are stocked to capacity. Contact the LA Food Bank or use their online tool to locate a shelter near you that needs items.

7. Support the Wildfire Relief Fund

Monetary support is important during a time of crisis. The best use of funds can change as the situation develops and the organizations on the ground are best equipped to make quick decisions about how to allocate them. Once the fires are contained and residents are ready to rebuild their lives, there will be a greater need for clothing, furniture and other types of donations.

The California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund provides not only immediate assistance during wildfire emergencies, but also delivers ongoing support to affected communities. The organization has experience with handling the aftermath of a wildfire and has, in the past, supported those who were displaced or lost housing, suffered physical or mental health problems or needed help rebuilding their homes with resources as well as financial aid.

 Monitor their updates to determine the best way to continue providing care. Items like clothing, housewares, personal hygiene products, pet supplies and other necessities will likely be in demand soon.

8. Discover New Opportunities to Help Wildfire Relief on ThatHelps’ App

ThatHelps’ team is constantly updating the app with a wide range of ways to help organizations assisting in California wildfire relief, from causes like the Arts, Animal Welfare, and much more. Download it here to make a difference.

Photo: Joanne Francis