Direct Relief is responding to the devastation caused by the deadly and destructive wildfires currently raging in California. Over 2.5 million acres have already burned – an all-time record – with some fires scorching over 1,000 acres every 30 minutes. To date, 11 people have been killed, and thousands of buildings have been destroyed. All national forests in California have been temporarily closed by the U.S. Forest Service due to the current spate of fires and the increased potential for new ones.
Governor Gavin Newsom, who has declared a state of emergency, stated that California has been facing extreme weather conditions which have led to “experiencing fires, the likes of which we have never seen in many, many years.” Northern California that has been extremely hard hit with some of the biggest blazes including:
• Creek Fire (Fresno, Madera counties)
• North Complex Fire, includes Bear and Claremont Fires (Plumas, Lassen, Butte & Yuba)
• August Complex Fire (Glenn, Mendocino, Lake, Tehama and Trinity counties)
• LNU Lightning Complex Fire (Napa, Sonoma, Solano, Lake & Yolo counties)
• SCU Lightning Complex Fire (Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin & Stanislaus counties)
• CZU Lightning Complex Fire (Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties)
Direct Relief’s Research and Analysis team has been tracking the wildfires with an eye toward analyzing the populations most at-risk during wildfires, which can seriously exacerbate pre-existing conditions, as well as the health centers and free clinics that serve the most vulnerable patients. Analysis by Direct Relief of coastal communities to the west of the fire perimeters, north of San Francisco – which are in areas of heavy smoke inundation – show 43 Federally Qualified Health Centers. These centers serve 94,000 patients, of which 40,000 live at 200% or more below the poverty line and 2,130 are experiencing homelessness. Thousands of these patients suffer from chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, hypertension, depression, and PTSD. Covid-19 has added another layer of complication to response efforts, increasing dangers for those with co-morbidities as well as creating issues regarding the number of evacuees allowed to shelter in enclosed spaces.
Southern California is also contending with large wildfires including the Lake Fire and the Ranch 2 fires burning in Los Angeles County, the Dome Fire burning in the Mojave National Preserve in San Bernardino County, and the Apple Fire burning in Riverside County.
Positioned to Respond
As a California-based disaster relief and medical assistance organization, Direct Relief has responded to wildfires in California, and throughout the U.S., for decades. The organization is a long-time partner of the State of California through its Office of Emergency Services, or CalOES, and always coordinates its response to wildfires with state officials. Direct Relief also partners with the State of California Emergency Management Agency, CalEMA, and serves as one of its key Business and Utilities Operations Center, or BUOC, partners to optimize coordination during times of emergencies.
Direct Relief’s 155,000-square-foot medical distribution center, equipment, trained staff, and various other capacities are registered with the State of California and available for public health or emergency purposes. Direct Relief created a Wildfire Kit last year, which contains medicines and supplies that have been most requested by healthcare providers in this type of disaster. The kits are designed to enable the treatment of about 250 people for 3 to 5 days.
Direct Relief’s Response
Direct Relief has been responding to communities impacted by these devastating wildfires, reaching out to dozens of healthcare partners in affected areas to offer assistance, and shipping Wildfire Kits and Emergency Medical Backpacks, as well as additional N95 masks and other personal protective equipment, pharmaceuticals including antibiotics, respiratory drugs, dermatology supplies, IV solutions, first aid supplies, and diagnostic equipment to public health agencies, healthcare facilities, and evacuation centers.
To date, a total of 19 emergency shipments have been delivered with additional donations being packed. Recipient agencies and healthcare facilities include:
- Sonoma County Department of Emergency Management
- Santa Rosa Community Health Centers
- San Mateo County Health Services Agency
- Marin County Department of Health and Human Services
- Contra Costa Health Services
- Salud Para La Gente in Watsonville
- Big Sur Health Center
Direct Relief will continue to support California Wildfires Response efforts, as well as expanding outreach to other states experiencing severe wildfires, including Oregon and Washington.