For the past couple of years, California’s seasonal wildfires have raged seemingly larger than ever before. If you don’t remember the fires being so bad a few years ago, you’re right — not only is climate change making the fires worse, thanks to a longer period of drought and more severe heatwaves, but humans moving into forested areas means that the risk of an accidental fire being set is higher. Now, after a week of extreme heat and thousands of lightning strikes, the second and third-largest fires in California’s history are burning in central and northern California for a total of 650 fires in the last week along, and unfortunately, they’re only expected to get worse.
Another issue exacerbating the fires is California’s reliance on prison labor to fight fires. Incarcerated people who work as firefighters for $2-$5 a day, including $1 an hour when they’re actively fighting fires, are now suffering from Covid-19. More than 1,000 incarcerated people who would normally be fighting the fires are sick with Covid-19. Because California has insisted upon exploiting incarcerated people for pennies on the dollar instead of building a robust firefighting program, there’s now a shortage of those who can fight fires – and considering the risk to those living in the close confines of a prison, chances are those firefighters are going to be suffering from and struggling with Covid-19 outbreaks for a long time.
During California’s most recent spate of wildfires, which started on August 15th, 7 people have died, more than 1,171 structures have been destroyed, and more than 250,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes. So, how can you help?
1. Help farmworkers, who are still working in the fields to pick food that is found in grocery stores across the country, even as temperatures rise above 100 degrees and smoke fills the air around them
The smoke is thick where farm workers were laboring harvesting strawberries in the Salinas area. Thank you @PocketNihilist for sending us this video documenting the hard work in difficult conditions farm workers do so we can have food on our tables. #WeFeedYou pic.twitter.com/O6r0sVcQOO
— United Farm Workers (@UFWupdates) August 23, 2020
Donate to the United Farm Workers Foundation, which helps provide protective equipment, safety information, and financial assistance to farmworkers affected by the fires.
Follow activists on social media who are on the ground and working to supply farmworkers not just with disaster supplies, but also helping their families, so you can learn more about immediate needs. This fundraiser is helping secure n95 masks for farm workers as well as raise money to buy school supplies for their children.
2. Support local fire funds
Donate to the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County, which is helping residents affected by the CZU August Lightning Complex Fires.
Make a donation to the 2020 Napa County Wildfires Fund.
Donate to the Monterey County Community Resilience Program.
3. Support wide range efforts related to the fires
Make a donation to GoFundMe’s California Wildlife Relief Fund, which will be used to give grants to “individuals, organizations, and communities that have either been impacted themselves or are dedicated to helping those affected by the California wildfires.”
Donate to the California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund, which supports immediate and long term recovery for people and animals in the wake of wildfires.
4. Support Firefighters and their families
Donate to the California Fire Foundation, which helps families of firefighters who are hurt or killed in the line of duty and also provides assistance to victims of fires and other natural disasters in California.
5. Open your home to those displaced by the fire
Through AirBnB, you can offer up your home for free to those displaced by wildfires and to relief workers helping fight the fires. If you’re in Butte County, you can register here and if you’re in Southern California, you can register here.
Before you go, check out all of the cloth face masks available online in the gallery below: