Direct Relief Commits Medicine, Equipment and Funding to Wildfire Response

Fires now burning in California include the Dixie Fire, which on Friday became the third-largest in the state’s history, torching 676 square miles after destroying the town of Greenville on Thursday.


California Wildfires

Firefighters battle the Dixie Fire in Greenville, California on August 4, 2021. (Lassen National Forest Service)

In response to the massive wildfires burning across California, Oregon, and other western states, Direct Relief has committed an initial $1 million in financial resources and is making available any medicine, medical supplies and other emergency aid from its distribution center, as requested by health clinics, emergency shelters, and state and local emergency response agencies in affected areas.

Fires now burning in California include the Dixie Fire, which on Friday became the third-largest in the state’s history, torching 676 square miles after destroying the town of Greenville on Thursday. In Susanville, 65 miles from Greenville on the opposite slope of the Sierras, 48 people were sheltering in a gymnasium Friday, while another 93 took refuge outside the same gym, according to the National Shelter System. Meanwhile, 230 people took shelter outside a high school in Grass Valley, Calif., northeast of Sacramento as the River Fire raged nearby.

As a California-based disaster relief and medical aid organization, Direct Relief has responded to wildfires in California, and throughout the U.S., for decades.

In California, Direct Relief is a long-time partner of the State of California through its Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) and the State of California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA). Direct Relief also serves as a key member of California’s Business and Utilities Operations Center (BUOC), which was established to mobilize private resources for the public benefit during emergencies and ensure resources are deployed in coordination with public officials managing the response.

Direct Relief’s 155,000-square-foot medical distribution center, equipment, trained staff, and various other capacities are registered with the State of California as a strategic emergency resource and available for public health or emergency response purposes. Direct Relief has specifically offered the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) any needed resources, including Wildfire Health Kits, its general inventory of medicine and medical supplies, and backup power resources.

In response to the Dixie fire and others burning across the Western US, Direct Relief is making its Wildfire Health Kits available to health centers and public health agencies in wildfire-affected counties. Each kit enables the treatment of about 250 people for three to five days, with medicines and supplies most requested by healthcare providers in past wildfire emergencies.

Items in the kit include inhalers and nebulizer solutions to treat respiratory irritation, irrigation solutions and antibiotics for dermal and ophthalmic injuries, analgesics for headaches, bandages and wound care items for lacerations and minor injuries like sprains and strains, and personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves to protect health workers.

In addition to backstopping public health and response agencies with needed emergency support, Direct Relief also works closely with nonprofit health clinics in affected communities to provide supplies needed to care for people evacuating from or otherwise affected by wildfires. Work performed by these clinics includes filling prescriptions for chronic disease medicines, treating cuts and scrapes, addressing respiratory issues caused by poor air quality, and working with a local hospital to triage patients who need more extensive care.

Direct Relief’s emergency-response activities also include synthesizing a broad range of public and private data sources to map and analyze wildfire risk, social vulnerability, and population movement in fire-affected areas. These analytic tools help inform emergency response officials and are used by Direct Relief to target emergency medical resources and deploy backup power to deliver medical care. The absence of power in emergencies has been found repeatedly to impede the delivery of needed medical services as electronic health records become inaccessible and spoilage occurs of insulin, vaccine, and other medications requiring cold storage.

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