Multiple blazes burned across California Friday as firefighters worked to contain the Tick Fire, burning northeast of Los Angeles, and the Kincade Fire, impacting Sonoma County in the northern part of the state.
Officials reported that nearly 22,000 acres had burned as a result of the Kincade Fire. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles County, more than 50,000 people were under evacuation orders because of fires burning there. California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Sonoma and Los Angeles counties on Friday.
Fire-conducive weather has prompted utility companies to issue power shut-offs to prevent further fires. Still, outages carry an additional set of risks for people dependent on power to manage their health, like those needing oxygen concentrators or dialysis machines.
Health facilities also face difficult choices about how to manage a lack of power. A recent survey issued by Direct Relief found that only 44 percent of health centers across the state have access to back-up power for their facilities, and those that do have back-up options often have to choose between critical functions, like refrigeration of medicines or access to electronic health records.
The fires burning across the state may also prompt health concerns around air quality. Dust and particulates from smoke and ash are often a toxic byproduct of wildfires, and sullied air can exacerbate health issues, especially for the young, the elderly, people with breathing issues like asthma, or those with weakened immune systems.
One health center, Santa Rosa Community Health Center, requested several thousand N95 masks from Direct Relief on Friday for distribution to those in need. The health center is about 25 miles south of the Kincade Fire, and the area is still recovering from the devastating Tubbs Fire in 2017. The blaze destroyed one of the Santa Rosa Community Health Center’s buildings, which was recently rebuilt.
The requested masks were shipped from Direct Relief’s strategic stockpile of emergency medicines and supplies and are expected to arrive at the health center on Saturday.
After responding to numerous wildfires across the state, Direct Relief maintains a significant cache of N95 masks, which are often in demand during times of poor air quality and harder to purchase.
Direct Relief is in communication with health centers and free clinics across the state to assess needs and respond accordingly.