California Wildfires: The Heroes and How You Can Help Them

Writer: Julie
Visual: Yana
Editor: Chris

Wildfires have brought great devastation, robbing people of their homes, harming wildlife, and even taking lives. They are unpredictable and extremely dangerous, especially in the places most vulnerable to them. In order to cope with and overcome such tragedies, many people have stepped forward, sharing their talents and expertise to aid wildfire victims. While their individual achievements may seem small, together, they have helped many people, both emotionally and physically.

California has always been prone to wildfires, mostly due to its topography. The state is located in the western region of the U.S. and gets most of its precipitation during the fall and winter seasons, having an extremely dry and hot summer. During the summer, vegetation and forests dry out, causing them to light more easily and become kindling for fires. The recent increase in the number and severity of wildfires is mainly due to climate change, which has caused summers to become even hotter and drier, leading to drought and longer fire seasons. 

There’s been an all-time high of wildfires this year, with almost four million acres burnt, more than twice that of 2018’s amount. These wildfires have taken 31 lives and destroyed almost 10,000 buildings, creating national panic. Furthermore, just like people, there are countless pets who have been separated from their families, currently residing in shelters and evacuee sites. While organizations like the Red Cross have been opening shelters and providing meals for the victims of the wildfires, it is evident that more needs to be done. 

Alyssa Nolan-Cain, famed community hero, and current founder and CEO of the Tiny Pine Foundation, builds tiny fully-functional houses using donations from volunteers for those who have lost their homes in the Californian wildfires. She also does weekly drive-throughs, distributing gas, supplies, foods, and gift cards to various necessity stores for those affected. 

She herself lost her home to a fire over a decade ago, which pushed her to go forward and beyond as a volunteer, knowing the difficulties and emotional turmoil of losing a home alongside precious, irreplaceable belongings. In an interview, she commented, “I grew up not really having any pictures from when I was little or any of the lifelong momentos that other people have”. Alyssa said that as she can emphasize with people who have lost their livelihoods to fires, she is able to be more motivated and resilient. Her actions during last year’s Camp Fire, which was one of the most destructive wildfires in California, earned her the title of hero, and rightfully so. 

Like Alyssa, you can help the California Wildfire victims by volunteering on websites, donating money to various organizations, housing evacuees (if you reside in the United States), adopting a pet, and donating food and other basic necessities. A list of organizations are listed and linked below. Let’s ensure that the victims of these disasters are able to properly recuperate and get back to their normal lives as comfortably and quickly as possible. 

Red Cross

California Fire Foundation

United Way of Greater Los Angeles

North Valley Community Foundation

California Community Foundation’s Wildlife Relief Fund

Enloe Medical Center

Humane Society of Ventura County

Tiny Pine Foundation

Salvation Army

Cowan, Jill. “Where the Wildfires Are Burning, and Other Answers You Need.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 Sept. 2020, http://www.nytimes.com/article/wildfires-california-oregon-washington.html?auth=login-google.

Hanson, Natalie. “’I Just Want to Go Home’: Need for Fire Aid Puts Pressure on Local Emergency Response.” Chico Enterprise-Record, Chico Enterprise-Record, 2 Oct. 2020, http://www.chicoer.com/2020/10/01/i-just-want-to-go-home-need-for-fire-aid-puts-pressure-on-local-emergency-response/.

Pierre-louis, Kendra, and John Schwartz. “Why Does California Have So Many Wildfires?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Aug. 2020, http://www.nytimes.com/article/why-does-california-have-wildfires.html#:~:text=California, like much of the,live California wildfires map tracker.].“Red Cross Helping Wildfire Victims as Fire Threat Continues.” American Red Cross, http://www.redcross.org/about-us/news-and-events/news/2020/red-cross-response-to-western-wildfires.html.