In California’s worst year for wildfires on record, more than two dozen are raging across the state, a handful of which have been burning since August. Eight deaths have so far been attributed to the blazes, and over 2 million acres of land have been scorched, with several weeks of the season still ahead.
In comparison, the five-year average number of acres burned during previous seasons is just over 300,000 acres.
Parched land and high winds are exacerbating California’s risk for sustained wildfires as the state faces its second major heat wave in less than two months. The highest temperature ever recorded in Los Angeles County — 121 degrees — was reported this weekend. Another temperature record was broken last month on Aug. 16, when temperatures in Death Valley reached a historic 130 degrees.
The Creek Fire, which is considered 0 percent contained according to CalFire, broke out over the weekend and threatened the lives of hundreds of campers in a nearby Sierra National Forest recreational area. Helicopters evacuated more than 200 people in the area on Sunday, and on Monday officials said that an additional 200 are safe but stranded “across four different temporary refuge areas” in the forest as rescue efforts continue to work toward getting them out.
“There’s fire on all sides, all around us.” Absolutely terrifying video from Mammoth Pools where 200+ people were trapped when the Creek Fire exploded pic.twitter.com/xDb8huwWKe
— Brian Kahn (@blkahn) September 6, 2020
In Southern California’s San Bernardino County, another blaze now called the El Dorado Fire sparked on Saturday morning as a result of a smoke machine used at a baby gender reveal party. That fire is 16 percent contained as of Tuesday.
Three clusters of fires in the San Francisco Bay Area — the LNU Lightning Complex, the CZU Lightning Complex and the SCU Lightning Complex — caused a majority of the damage last month after being sparked by lightning strikes. Now, all three clusters are between 81 to 94 percent contained.
Firefighters from across the nation have joined California crews to help battle the flames. Both first responders and residents of the surrounding areas are forced to breathe smoke- and ash-filled air, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns can irritate lungs, affect the immune system and make people more prone to lung infections, including the novel coronavirus.
That smoke is taking a particularly drastic toll on farm workers, who are continuing to harvest every day in order to avoid losing crops and disrupting the produce supply chain. People fleeing the fires are also worried about contracting coronavirus from crowded shelters, leaving some to sleep in their cars or seek accommodations at hotels, The New York Times reported.
The West from space late this Labor Day afternoon pic.twitter.com/lWapPtclAx
— NWS Seattle (@NWSSeattle) September 8, 2020
When the blazes are finally contained, the pandemic will complicate recovery efforts, as those who have been affected start to rebuild their lives with limited resources, while also trying to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.
Here’s how you can help both the victims of these fires and the first responders fighting to get them under control.
- The California Fire Foundation’s Supplying Aid to Victims of Emergency (SAVE) program brings short-term relief to victims of wildfires and other natural disasters throughout California. Donate here.
- The Greater Bay Area Central Coast Wildfire Relief Fund is a collaboration between four local United Way chapters that offers both immediate and long-term recovery aid to Bay Area and Central Coast residents. Donate here.
- The Center for Disaster Philanthropy‘s California Wildfires Recovery Fund helps communities prepare for and recover from wildfires. Donate here.
- The Latino Community Foundation‘s NorCal Wildfire Relief Fund invests in grassroots Latino nonprofit organizations in Sonoma and Napa Counties. Donate here.
- UndocuFund supports undocumented individuals and families in Sonoma County including farm workers, which the organization noted in a recent Facebook post are particularly impacted during the dual crises of the pandemic and the wildfires. Donate here.
- The California Community Foundation Wildfire Relief Fund will support immediate, mid- and long-term community recovery efforts, as well as animals affected by the fires. Donate here.
- Donate to the American Red Cross or volunteer your time to support victims.
- The Napa Valley Community Foundation’s 2020 Napa County Wildfire Fund supports residents who have been displaced or lost their homes to the wildfires. Donate here.
- The Solano Disaster Relief Fund will support organizations working to provide relief and recovery services to Solano County residents. Donate here.
- The Community Foundation Santa Cruz County has established a Fire Response Fund to support residents. Donate here.
- The United Ways’ Northern California Wildfire Relief and Recovery Fund will provide immediate and long-term recovery assistance to North Bay residents affected by the fires. Donate here.
- The California Association of Food Banks represents more than 40 food banks in the state that provide food to millions of residents. Donate here.
- The California Fire Foundation supports surviving families of fallen firefighters, firefighters themselves and the communities they serve. Donate here.
- GoFundMe has created a centralized hub of verified fundraisers supporting those impacted by the wildfires. The platform also launched its own California Wildfire Relief Fund to raise money for victims.
Note: We verified organizations to the best of our ability. If you aren’t sure about the legitimacy of a charitable organization, visit Charity Navigator.