By Aaron Stoner and Tatiana Diaz
Fires are raging in the state of California, and the haunting images of homes reduced to ash, cars with windows blown out and streets lined with trees smoldered and baren are apocalyptic.
According to ABC News, the deadliest fires in California’s history that began Thursday, Nov. 8 and have burned over 130,000 acres have claimed over 79 lives as of the date of this report, with entire towns, like that of Paradise, being reduced to dust and rubble. Nearly 1,300 are still missing as a result of the fires.
With the week’s forecast having a zero percent chance of precipitation until next Tuesday, relief for firefighters who continue to battle the flames, and residents of those within the fire’s war path seems like an eternity away.
While the horrific fires continue to rip across a state that is over 2,000 miles away, here in West Michigan, there are still ways to help.
The California Fire Foundation is a non-profit organization that began in 1987 and its mission is vast. One of its main goals is to provide aid for families of firefighters who’ve lost loved ones fighting the wildfires, as well as supplying short-term relief by offering $100 gift cards to families whose homes have been destroyed to buy items such as food or medicine.
Understanding that the loss for those affected by the flames’ fury is exorbitant, and for so many, the emotional toll is just as heavy as the physical. Any donation will truly offer change and immediate support.
More information and ways to donate through the California Fire Foundation can be found here.
Another such organization helping those affected by the California wildfires is the American Red Cross. With hundreds of Red Cross charters across the United States, the American Red Cross helps communities affected by natural disasters including wildfires. In California, the Red Cross has already deployed volunteers to help those affected by the latest wildfires.
More than 125,000 acres and more than 6,500 homes have been destroyed in the Camp Fire zone in Northern California alone. In Southern California, the Woolsey Fire destroyed more than 96,000 acres and over 430 homes, according to American Red Cross of West Michigan Executing Coordinator Shanna Phillips.
“(The) deadly wildfires are burning out of control in both Northern and Southern California, threatening entire communities and forcing evacuations,” Phillips stated. “The American Red Cross is on the ground working with partners to provide shelter, food and comfort for people forced to leave their homes with little notice.”
So far, five volunteers from the local West Michigan Red Cross chapter have been deployed to aid the affected communities in California with another 15 waiting to be deployed.
“The Red Cross has deployed enough supplies to shelter as many as 7,000 people, including special equipment to support people with disabilities,” Phillips stated in an email to The Collegiate. “The Red Cross is mobilizing enough relief supplies to serve as many as 15,000 households. Supplies include sifters, personal protective equipment, respiratory masks, rakes, shovels, tarps and other resources.”
Those who volunteered their time and efforts to the Red Cross from across the nation have been helping people seek shelter and aiding in other ways.
“Red Cross volunteers are supporting evacuation centers to provide safe refuge for people impacted by these devastating fires,” Phillips said. “The Red Cross is also providing meals, health services, comfort and other support for affected residents.”
For those looking to help the affected communities in Northern and Southern California have several options through the American Red Cross. One way to help is by donating comfort kit items like deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, body wash and other personal hygiene products to the Red Cross. These items are stored and ready to be distributed nationwide whenever an emergency arises. The kits can be used locally or nationally, depending on the need.
Other ways to help are by donating money to the American Red Cross. An easy way to donate is by sending “CAWILDFIRES” via text to 90999 to make a $10 donation or by going to the Red Cross website. Monetary donations help people recover from disasters, according to Phillips. Hosting a fundraiser with the Red Cross in another way to financially aid the Red Cross in their efforts. To host a fundraiser in Grand Rapids, contact the Red Cross at (616) 456-8661.
The Red Cross is also asking for blood donations. To donate blood or to host a blood drive, contact the West Michigan chapter of the Red Cross.
“The American Red Cross has a severe blood shortage and urgently needs blood and platelet donors to give now to prevent delays in lifesaving medical care for patients this fall,” Phillips stated.
Type O positive and O negative are the blood types in critical need for those affected by natural disasters like the California wildfires.
Lastly, to help those in California become a trained Red Cross volunteer. Trained volunteers are helping staff shelters in California currently and locally they respond to nearly one house fire each night. To learn more becoming a volunteer, visit the Red Cross volunteer page.
For those looking to reconnect with loved ones affected by the wildfires, the Red Cross Safe and Well website allows people to register and post messages letting others know they are safe or search for loved ones. Registration can be done on the website directly or by texting “SAFE” to 78876.