California Needs Your Help After Devastating Wildfires — Here's How


By now, you've probably heard of the 22 wildfires currently decimating Northern California wine country, some of the deadliest fires in California history. If you're sitting at your computer, dumbstruck and wondering how to help Santa Rosa, Napa, and other affected areas, you've come to the right place. We're here to help you help California.

Per SFGate, these fires have burned through approximately 265 square miles. And according to the Associated Press, at least 21 are dead and 180 injured; more than 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed, and more than 4,400 people were staying in shelters as of Wednesday, Oct. 11.

And despite earlier news that the fires were starting to be contained, the AP has reported that Ken Pimlott, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection chief, is concerned that many of the fires could meet up, turning into one large fire.

With so many people injured, in shelters, without homes and businesses, and fires still blazing, California could use all of our help.

There's a lot you can do to help — both the people and the land. Here's how.

If you're in the area, donate time or goods to an evacuation center.

NBC Los Angeles has reported that officials in both Petaluma and Sonoma are asking for donations, including, but not limited to "baby food, pet food, water, blankets, and toilet paper." As always, though, we suggest you call or check online before donating to double-check what each organization needs.

Sonoma County Animal Services, located in Santa Rosa, is also accepting food and supplies. It posted a call for donations on Facebook, and continues to update followers on its needs.

There is also a very helpful Google doc for locals who aren't sure where to start, what to bring, or how to volunteer.

Thinking of donating? Think local.

There are several local nonprofit organizations accepting donations right now.

Napa Valley Community Foundation, a nonprofit that usually focuses on tackling problems with "housing, education, immigration, inequality, water, land use and transportation," has a disaster relief fund for victims of the fire.

Or check out the Community Foundation Sonoma County's resilience fund, which "will address mid- to long-term needs of Sonoma County after the devastating fires."

This Napa and Sonoma County Fire Relief GoFundMe page has been verified, according to NBC Bay Area, so the money you donate will actually help the local community. The funds will be distributed among The Redwood Credit Union's North Bay Fire Recovery Fund, the Santa Rosa Fire Department, the Sonoma Valley Fire and Rescue Authority, Napa County Fire Department, Lake County Fire and Rescue, and other organizations.

Call your senators to let them know you support California senators seeking monetary assistance.

California Senators Kalama Harris and Dianne Feinstein have requested expedited federal aid. You can, too.

Call the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your senator. Tell them that you want them to support Harris and Feinstein's ask.

Call your elected representatives about long-term solutions.

According to meteorologist Eric Holthaus, California just had its hottest summer on record. He tweeted, "It's no coincidence that this week's wildfires are blazing out of control." He, along with other scientists (including NASA), insist that this will continue to happen — and possibly worsen — with climate change.

President Donald Trump's proposed budget cuts include slashing "$300 million from the U.S. Forest Service's wildfire fighting initiatives and $50 million from its wildfire prevention efforts — all on top of a 23% reduction of federal funding for volunteer fire departments around the nation," according to The New York Daily News. His administration has also proposed deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — a move that could speed up the disastrous effects of climate change.

All while we continue to get hit with massive, destructive natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Maria, and these wildfires.

So it would be a good idea to call your elected representatives, again using the switchboard at (202) 224-3121, to let them know that you're against the proposed cuts to the EPA and the U.S. Forest Service. Further, ask them what they're doing about climate change, and let them know you'd like to see them publicly support funding to combat climate change.

As always, be careful about where you donate your money.

NPR and ProPublica did in-depth investigations into the Red Cross's persistent mismanagement of funds meant for disaster relief. So despite the ubiquity of the company and the ease with which you can make donations, always do your research before sending money anywhere.

Keep an eye out on social media for more tips on helping.

There will be calls to action, donation funds, and more in the coming days and weeks on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more, so make sure you keep your eye out for any updates.

No matter if you're on the phone for hours a day or if you send a quick $10 donation, any and all help is needed and appreciated.