Direct Relief Responds to Alisal Fire as Air Quality Deteriorates

The organization is providing N95 masks and mobilizing respiratory medications, back-up power units for deployment in its hometown.

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California Wildfires

Direct Relief staff deliver N95 masks and eye medications to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department on Oct. 13, 2021,  to support their efforts to quell the Alisal Fire. (Amarica Rafanelli/Direct Relief)
Direct Relief staff deliver N95 masks and eye medications to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department on Oct. 13, 2021, to support their efforts to quell the Alisal Fire. (Amarica Rafanelli/Direct Relief)

A wildfire in a rural area of Santa Barbara County on California’s Central Coast has burned more than 15,000 acres this week. Firefighters are working to contain the blaze that has prompted evacuations and shut down a major highway that runs through the area.

The Alisal Fire broke out Monday about 40 miles north of Santa Barbara, and is threatening about 120 buildings and has closed Highway 101 as fire crews battled the blaze, which is currently at five percent containment.

Direct Relief, which has headquarters in Santa Barbara and operates a 155,000-square-foot medical distribution facility, has been in daily communication with local agencies responding to the fire and its impacts, including the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management, Santa Barbara County Emergency Operations Center, and the American Red Cross of the Central Coast to offer support for those impacted by the Alisal Fire.

The organization maintains a standing inventory of medical aid frequently requested during wildfires, including N95 masks, inhalers and asthma management medications, eye drops, and chronic disease medications often requested by evacuees with a limited supply of prescriptions needed to manage their health.

Direct Relief’s Response

On Wednesday, requested medical aid was delivered to local agencies responding to the Alisal Fire. Direct Relief staff delivered N95 masks and eye drops to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department staging at incident command, as well as the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and Santa Barbara County Animal Services, which had requested supplies for ranchers returning to care for animals. N95 masks were also delivered to local libraries in Montecito, downtown Santa Barbara, Eastside and Carpinteria branches for distribution to the public. Alpha Resource Center, a nonprofit that serves adults with developmental disabilities, also received N95 masks from Direct Relief for their clients.

On Wednesday, the organization also offered up its inventory of N95 masks to the public. An air quality watch has been issued for Santa Barbara County, and wildfire smoke and particulates in the air can exacerbate respiratory conditions as well as other health issues.

Power interruptions can also create health consequences for health providers and their patients in emergency situations. In addition to medical resources, Direct Relief maintains a fleet of mobile backup power options for deployment should they be needed.

A SimpliPhi backup power unit was delivered to the Isla Vista Neighborhood Clinic on Oct. 13, 2021, for use in case of a power outage. The unit can power refrigeration for several days, which can be useful for sensitive therapies like vaccines. (Amarica Rafanelli/Direct Relief)

A SimpliPhi backup power unit was delivered on Wednesday to the Isla Vista Neighborhood Clinic for use in case of a power outage. The unit can power refrigeration for several days, ensuring temperature control for sensitive therapies, including vaccines and insulin, at risk of spoilage if power is interrupted.

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Direct Relief has a long history of responding to wildfires across the Western United States, California, and in Santa Barbara County, including the Thomas Fire in 2017 that burned more than 281,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, and will continue to respond as needed.

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