With evacuation orders heaping and refugees now hunkered down inside hotel rooms (procured by the Red Cross), the Bay Area's reeling from yet another devastating spell of forest fires. And unfortunately: helping the victims and firefighters amid the pandemic is a less clear-cut action than one might think.
It's times of mutual crisis that implore us all to do our parts — however big or small they may be — to help our fellow neighbors, frontline workers; families and friends; anyone in need of an olive branch. But 2020 has thrown more than its fair share of wrenches into our gears — one, of course, being the global health crisis caused by SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. With new social distancing norms and sanitation practices, offering support to those affected by the recent NorCal fires isn’t as simple as dropping off pallets of bottled water and clothes these days.
We gave refuge to more than 3,100 people impacted by #CaliforniaWildfires last night. More disaster workers are currently on their way to support over 270 already responding. You can find a list of open shelters here: https://t.co/5Rj7blECeA pic.twitter.com/DyxXm2JxaA— American Red Cross (@RedCross) August 22, 2020
(During the Camp Fire of 2018, Butte County was flooded with enough donated materials that they ended up having to relocate those contributions — to an empty Toys R Us. In Los Angeles that same year, 5,000 pounds of donated food, originally meant to feed those affected by the SoCal fires, went to waste because there simply weren’t enough volunteers and warm bodies to process those donations.)
In fact, dropping off material donations isn't welcomed at many charities due to the COVID-19 infection risks they pose.
“With our safety practices, we’re really shying away from all of that,” said Nicole Maul, a spokeswoman for the Northern California Coastal Region of the American Red Cross, to The Sacramento Bee. “We want to slow any spread of COVID-19. If we’re bringing in outside items, that’s an added complexity.”
It was a sentiment, too, echoed when I contacted the Red Cross today for more information on how everyday folk can help those in need — while keeping themselves and others safe.
"For the safety of our shelter residents and workers, the Red Cross is unable to accept material donations of any kind right now," writes Kathryn Hecht, the Northern California Coastal Region Communications Manager for the American Red Cross, in an email to SFist. "Due to increased safety measures for COVID-19, storing, sorting, cleaning, and distributing donated items could be especially risky."
Hecht later went to say that the first priority for the Red Cross is to provide shelter and support to those in need; financial donations, per Hecht, are the quickest and best way to get help to those who need it most right now.
"[All financial donations] to the Red Cross help us provide shelter, meals, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning, and other assistance during disasters," Hecht continued, adding that people can also sign up to become volunteers — which the Red Cross expects will be needed in huge numbers in the days, weeks to come.
(Also: Red Cross shelters and pantries — like most other food banks — do not accept home-cooked meals due to health code ordinances, something to keep in mind for future good doings.)
In lieu of giving more traditional donations, scroll through these online fundraisers to give to that'll help support those affected by these historic blazes, as well as the individuals fighting them:
- Santa Cruz County Community Foundation’s Fire Response Fund
- Napa Valley Community Foundation’s 2020 Napa County Wildfire Fund
- Solano Disaster Relief Fund
- American Red Cross Disaster Relief Efforts
*Due to the coronavirus, the American Red Cross is choosing to house wildfire refugees inside hotels rather than at crowded gymnasiums and auditoriums, according to The Sacramento Bee; they're also urging those to send cash donations above online ones.
- California Community Foundation's Wildfire Relief Fund
- The Diocese of Sacramento Fire Assistance Fund
*Currently accepting donations via mail at "Diocese of Sacramento Fire Assistance Fund, 2110 Broadway, Sacramento, CA 95818," by phone at 916-733-0266, or online — but be sure to click “Fire Assistance Fund" if placing your donation through the internet.
- Vetted GoFundMe Campaigns like Bay Area Foodie Wildfire Fund, Northern California Wildfire Animal Rescue Fund, and California Wildfire Relief Fund
- Monterey County Community Resilience Program
As of this afternoon, the LNU Lightning Complex fire is 15 percent contained; the SCU Lighting Complex fire is just 10 percent contained — and the CZU Lightning fire is only 5 percent contained.
These three fires make up the largest burning in the Bay Area, having collectively burned over 675,000 acres.
Image: Twitter via @rdavbritt