For the past several days, rapidly growing wildfires have raged throughout Southern California, destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of land and forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee their homes. This also means hundreds of animals are being displaced, as well. Fortunately, there are plenty of places to which you can donate your time in order to volunteer to help those affected by the wildfires.
There are currently four fires tearing through SoCal: the Thomas Fire, which is the largest of the three and has destroyed more than 60,000 acres around Santa Paula in Ventura County; the Creek Fire, which is ripping through Sylmar in Los Angeles County and has devastated more than 14,000 acres; the Rye Fire in LA County's Santa Clarita, which has destroyed more than 7,000 acres; and the Skirball Fire, which began on Wednesday and has scorched several multimillion-dollar mansions in Bel-Air.
One way to help those who's homes have been decimated is to donate time to local charities, like the United Way of Ventura County. The organization is currently teaming up with the Red Cross, and the country sheriff's department to place individual volunteers where their efforts will be most impactful. There will also be more opportunities posted on the United Way's website and social media channels once the fires are contained.
“In the aftermath of spontaneous disasters, many generous community members step up to help those in need around them. One of the challenges after a catastrophe strikes is mobilizing those caring citizens so they can effectively help their neighbors and neighborhoods,” UWVC said in a press release. “In order to best engage spontaneous volunteers during a disaster, United Way, the Red Cross, and the Sheriff's Department are collaborating so that community members can volunteer easily and be directed to the City and County departments or community-based organizations where their volunteering will have the most impact.”
For animals that are displaced and seeking food and shelter, you can donate your time to the Humane Society of Ventura County, which has taken in about 300 animals so far. There's a list of requirements and contact information on the organization's website so you can figure out where and how to volunteer. There has also been a message widely shared on social media about leaving out buckets of water for wild animals fleeing their habitats, but according to the director of urban wildlife for the Humane Society of the United States, John Griffin, that might not be the best idea.
"In this situation it’s just better not to have an intervention, because [animals] are extremely resilient and they’re aware of other food or water sources," he told Snopes. "Trying to interfere with that, you don’t know that interfering won’t cause an issue. If they’re truly injured and require assistance, that’s a different set of circumstances."
Those in the Los Angeles area can also search for volunteer openings on the Red Cross website, including local disaster services groups and community programs. Just enter your zip code and select "Disaster Services" to find opportunities near you. You can also follow the Red Cross' Los Angeles chapter on social media for updates on what organizations need volunteers.
If you want to bring supplies to shelters that are housing displaced people and animals during this time, they're accepting food, water, and other necessary materials. For the Creek Fire, a list of evacuation centers and animal shelters can be found here, a list for the Skirball Fire can be found here, and a list for the Thomas Fire can be found here.
Airbnb is also encouraging California homeowners to offer their homes to evacuees. If you're willing to open your doors to those displaced by the fires, you can sign up do so here. Whatever you're able to donate, whether it's time or resources, will certainly make a huge impact on those affected the most by this natural disaster.