Direct Relief

Wildfire Update: Recovery Process Comes into Focus in Northern California

More than six weeks have passed since tragic wildfires burned across Northern California, claiming the lives of 43 people and destroying nearly 9,000 structures.

Little remains of a neighborhood located off U.S. Route 101 in Santa Rosa, California, where the Tubbs fire destroyed much of the town and left 21 dead. (Bryn Blanks/Direct Relief)

Since the fires began last month, Direct Relief has supported 10 sites with 17 emergency deliveries of N-95 masks, inhalers, insulin, and other medications. Recipients of the supplies, valued at $265,045.95 (wholesale), include the California Office of Emergency Services and Public Health, public health departments in three affected counties, and nonprofit community health centers and shelters.

A frontline responder unloads 100,000 N-95 masks at Napa County Airport. The masks were distributed to evacuation centers and healthcare providers supporting those affected by the fires. (Tony Morain/Direct Relief)

Direct Relief supports more than 40 healthcare providers in the affected area on an ongoing basis and offered assistance to these sites in the hours after the fires broke out.

One of those clinics, Santa Rosa Community Health Center, lost their largest health center, the Vista campus, when the fires blew through on Oct. 9.

The sun rose in Northern California on Oct. 10, 2017, illuminating a thick mix of smoke and dust. (Tony Morain/Direct Relief)

The 42,500-square-foot health center housed 56 exam rooms and served approximately 24,000 patients per year. Comprehensive primary care and behavioral health services were provided by the 180 employees who worked at the site. Fourteen of those staff members lost their homes in the blaze.

In addition to providing N-95 masks and other emergency medical supplies, Direct Relief provided the health center with a $50,000 cash grant to support its response.


After the final evacuation center closed last week, Santa Rosa Community Health Center’s Annemarie Brown discussed the challenges that remain.

“The community is really just digging into what the recovery process means,” explained Brown.

The days and weeks following the fires were quieter than usual at the center as displaced residents came to terms with the impacts to their communities. With more than 6,000 structures destroyed in Napa and Sonoma Counties, many were concerned about the loss of homes and other buildings crucial to their daily life.

Santa Rosa Community Health Center is actively reaching out to the public to reiterate the importance of accessing health care, even more so in times of disaster when vulnerable populations are especially hard-hit.

“We’re continuing heads down here, adapting our operations following the fires,” Brown added.

To ensure displaced patients continue to receive essential care, hundreds of medical staff members have been relocated and redeployed. Mobile medical units have also been set up to serve those in need, regardless of their ability to pay.