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California Wildfires 'Will Continue to Get Worse,' Here's How You Can Help

( [email protected] ) Oct 12, 2017 11:04 AM EDT
Devastating wildfires in northern California this week have destroyed more than 170,000 acres, killed at least 23 people, left hundreds missing, and leveled 3,500 homes and commercial structures. Here's how you can help.
A Cal Fire truck is driven away from flames as the Rocky Fire burns near Clearlake. California wildfires

Devastating wildfires in northern California this week have destroyed more than 170,000 acres, killed at least 23 people, left hundreds missing, and leveled 3,500 homes and commercial structures.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, 8,000 firefighters across the state are working to contain the fires, the worst of which are in Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma counties. So far, the 22 fires have spanned more than 265 square miles (686 square kilometers), making the fires the deadliest in the state since 1991. Evacuations continue as officials expect the death toll to rise when officers begin going into the "hot zones."

"We can't even get into most of the areas," Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said. "When we start doing searches, I expect that number to go up."

In Sonoma County, 600 people were still unaccounted for as of Thursday, and tens of thousands of homes remain without power.

"This is a serious, critical, catastrophic event," Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said. "It's going to continue to get worse before it gets better."

California Wildfire
(Photo : California wildfires)
The remains of fire damaged homes after an out of control wildfire moved through.

Firefighters say there's no known connection between the fires and they're not sure what started them. Still, the blaze isn't expected to die down anytime soon; weather officials expect strong winds to blow throughout Thursday. The winds, combined with dry fuels and low humidity, could spread the fires even farther, according to the National Weather Service.

"It's a good heads-up to all the firefighters and emergency management that the conditions are going to be pretty bad in terms of the fire behaviors," said Will Pi, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "We're expecting the strongest winds to be tonight and tomorrow morning."

"We've had big fires in the past," Gov. Jerry Brown said. "This is one of the biggest."

On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence announced that President Donald Trump approved a major disaster declaration for California.

In light of the ongoing disaster, here's how you can help.

Participate in volunteer efforts with the Crisis Response Centers, start a fundraiser, or donate to ongoing fundraisers.

Donate to the Sonoma County Resilience Fund. The fund is overseen by the Community Foundation of Sonoma County and pledges to "focus on the mid- to long-term tasks of recovery and rebuilding, which will include basic needs as well as longer term economic, health and social supports."

Food pantries in Napa County, Yuba County, and Sonoma County are currently accepting donations. 

Donate to The Center for International Disaster Information, which is part of USAID and focuses on informing people about the most effective ways to support international disaster relief and recovery.

Donations to the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund; donations for both Lake County and Mendocino County are being coordinated by the Savings Bank of Mendocino County.

Donate to the American Red Cross. You can request via a drop-down menu that your donation go only to California wildfire victims, or donate to the organization's broader disaster relief efforts.

GoFundMe also has a page set up for fundraising efforts in the region. Donations can be made to specific families, for shelter supplies, fire relief and more.

For those local, host some evacuees: Airbnb has a disaster relief program. The Napa Community Animal Response Team is also asking for volunteers to help save our furry friends. 

Finally, pray for those affected by the devastation: "Wildfires rage in California. They are destroying homes and killing people in their path. Will you join us in praying for survivors?" tweeted the American Bible Society.

"My heart is with these communities who have been devastated by the California Wildfires. Praying for the missing and the first responders battling the fires," tweeted Senator Mark Warner.

Tags : California wildfire, fire, wildfires, Wine Country, California wildfire update