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How to Help California Wildfire Survivors

Whether you’re a local or live across the country, there are a number of ways to help.

Chris and Nancy Brown embrace while looking over the remains of their burned residence after the Camp fire tore through the region in Paradise, California, on November 12, 2018.

California’s grim year of record-breaking wildfires continues this month. The Camp Fire in Northern California’s Butte County claimed 113,000 acres and 42 lives and counting as of Tuesday morning, while the Woolsey Fire in Southern California tore through 96,000 acres. Watching these fires race through the landscape can be scary, especially when it may feel like there’s nothing you can do.

Fortunately, a lot of people are working on the ground to fight these fires and support survivors as they return home — or find new housing, in the case of thousands who have lost their residences.

Whether you’re a local or live across the country, there are a number of ways to help.

Consider giving money, which allows community organizations to purchase what they need, when they need it, at a good price. One such organization is Mask Oakland, a collective that’s distributing respiratory protection to communities in need. Other options include the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation, California Community Foundation, United Way of Los Angeles and Ventura County, Direct Relief, California Fire Foundation’s SAVE program, Northern California United Way and North Valley Community Foundation.

Some organizations may need material donations. It’s a good idea to check their websites or social media accounts to learn more, as their needs can fluctuate — an animal shelter might be in desperate need of dry dog food one day, and overloaded the next. Many groups are maintaining Amazon wish lists to manage donations efficiently.

If you’re local to the fires, there are numerous volunteer opportunities, and you may also consider offering shelter to humans or animals who have been pushed out of their homes. Fostering or adopting pets can be especially important, freeing up space in shelters to accommodate evacuee animals who need temporary places to stay. Organizations like RedRover, Humane Society of Ventura County and North Valley Animal Disaster Groupare also responding to the fires with veterinary care and emergency sheltering.

But there’s another critical way you can support fire victims: Contact your federal legislators and talk to them about climate change.

While Donald Trump has blamed California’s water and timber management policies for these terrible fires, the truth is that climate change is the real problem. The state is being stricken with extremely dry, hot weather, which turns the landscape into a tinderbox and sends firestorms whirling through forests and homes alike when winds pick up. Climate change has exacerbated these conditions, and meaningful action on this issue will help not just California, but also states across the West.

The Trump administration’s official policy of denying climate change is harmful, making it difficult for administrative agencies to take action on climate resilience and mitigation efforts. Congress must act to explicitly state that climate change is real, and press for policy moves designed to minimize the effects of humans on the environment. As the severe hurricanes and wildfires of 2018 have shown, this is an issue that’s only growing worse — and future generations will pay a high price for our inaction.

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