Social Justice

5 Ways To Support Wildfire Relief Efforts Right Now

Places to donate, a petition to sign, and a hotline to share with your friends out West.

San Fransisco's Golden Gate Bridge in orange wildfire haze. Here's how to support wildfire relief ef...

Wildfire season has barely begun, but California has already lost over two million acres to fires, a record for the state. Many parts of Oregon and Washington state have also been engulfed in wildfires, killing at least 15 people across the three states and forcing over half a million people to leave their homes in Oregon alone, CNN reports. If you're watching the destruction from home, knowing how to support wildfire relief efforts can help you turn your feelings into action.

As people evacuate their homes, many will require urgent assistance. Whether you have medical skills and are able to travel to affected areas, or if you want to help from the safety of your home, the Red Cross has a wide range of disaster relief volunteering opportunities. If you're looking to donate to community-led relief efforts, there's options for that, too.

You can sign a petition to encourage proactive climate change policies that can stop wildfires from getting worse each year, and talk to your loved ones about how taking cues from Native American land management practices is one way of restoring balance to the region. If you or someone you love is being adversely impacted emotionally by the fires, share the Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to get in touch with a trained crisis counselor.

Whatever form of action you choose to take, you can find different options for getting involved in wildfire relief efforts below.


Donate To Community-Led Relief Efforts

National organizations can quickly mobilize to help people displaced or injured by disasters like wildfires, and community-led relief funds can help distribute assistance on an ongoing basis. In response to the destruction of last year's wildfires, the Latino Community Foundation, which connects Latinx organizations and philanthropists across California, activated a Wildfire Relief Fund, partnering with organizations invested in promoting local indigenous leadership, supporting undocumented families, and youth-led emergency relief efforts to provide assistance for marginalized communities impacted by the fires. You can donate to this year's Wildfire Relief Fund here. The California Community Foundation lists other local organizations that could use financial support, too.

In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee's office published a list of local community action organizations taking donations to help those affected by the fires, the Seattle Times reported. The Oregon Community Foundation has also compiled grassroots organizations taking donations, including the Unete Center for Farm Worker Advocacy and the Women's Foundation of Oregon Fund.


Volunteer To Provide Disaster Relief

The Red Cross always needs extra volunteers during crises like this one. Whether you want to offer your services as a medical professional, want to be trained to help out at an emergency shelter, or would like to volunteer from home to virtually help wildfire relief, you can sign up to find your best fit for offering your services here.


Sign This Petition About Climate Change

Today's wildfires are directly connected to climate change, but President Trump has said that the problem can be solved by literally adding water. Efforts to promote environmental justice and proactively address climate change — rather than waiting for disaster to strike and then dousing it with water — can help prevent disasters like this in the future. You can sign this Care2 petition to add your voice to the growing number of people demanding that wildfires be prevented, not just fought.


Talk About How Colonialism Impacts Wildfires Today

Though they're often referred to as natural disasters, human interventions like industrialization (and its effects on the environment) impact how bad wildfires get. But communities that were living in wildfire-prone areas — tribes like the Chumash, Hupa, Yurok, and hundreds of others — had effective solutions to control these disasters well before white settlers colonized the western part of the United States.

Prescribed burns are a traditional Native American practice that for centuries helped reduce the risk of uncontrollable fires by clearing out dry underbrush, the Guardian reports, which then regenerated as healthy, living flora. In 1850, the U.S. government officially banned the practice, following Spanish colonizers forcibly preventing Indigenous people from undertaking it for years. Experts believe that the ensuing kind of fire management — putting out forest fires immediately, without preventative burning — lead to an unhealthy ecosystem that was more prone to dangerous wildfires. Now, learning from Native American knowledge that colonialism tried to erase is becoming a key part of wildfire prevention efforts.

"I think it's really important that we don't think about traditional burning as what information can we learn from Native people and then exclude people and move on with non-Natives managing the land but the Native people are at the forefront and are leading," Beth Rose Middleton Manning, a professor of Native American studies at UC Davis, told NPR.

When you're talking to your friends and colleagues about the wildfires, point to the impacts of colonialism on wildfires like these. Doing so can help dismantle ideas about natural disasters that gloss over who's responsible for the damage in the first place. It's important to see these tragedies as preventable, if elected officials and those in power act — not as inevitable natural disasters, as people removed from the fires might think.


Use The Disaster Distress Helpline If You Need To

The mental health impacts of living through wildfires can include anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Atlantic reports that environmental disasters often cause a spike in domestic abuse, and the National Center for PTSD says that substance use also rises after disasters as people try to cope with the emotional and psychological impacts of living in such danger and uncertainty.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) operates the Disaster Distress Helpline all day, every day. You can call the Helpline at 800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to get in touch with a trained crisis counselor. If you're not directly impacted by the fires but have pals that are, let them know about the helpline if they don't already.