The vicious wildfires engulfing much of Southern California are continuing to spread, putting even more lives and homes at risk. Recent estimates indicate that around 200,000 acres of land have now been destroyed by the inferno. A widened evacuation zone has now been enforced, and it comes within just two miles of the Santa Barbara Zoo.
“We drill for and are prepared for emergencies,” said Zoo Director Nancy McToldridge, as reported by the Daily Mail. Unpredictable winds and an unseasonable lack of rain has caused a perfect set of climatic conditions for the fires to spread. The flames have now made their way into the foothills surrounding Los Angeles.
“The winds are kind of squirrely right now,” said Santa Barbara County fire spokesman Mike Eliason. “Some places the smoke is going straight up in the air, and others it’s blowing sideways. Depends on what canyon we’re in.”
Authorities estimate that the fires have destroyed almost 800 homes and other buildings, killed dozens of prized horses and forced more than 200,000 people to flee their homes. One death, a 70-year-old woman who crashed her car on an evacuation route, has been attributed to the fire in Santa Paula, a small city where the fire began.
The wildfire is now the fifth-largest in the state’s history, fire officials said, as reported by ABC News. Some 5773 personnel along with 762 engines have been battling to try and control the raging inferno. Reports indicate that the state has spent $34 million so far in its effort to deal with the crisis.
“[We’re] facing a new reality in the state,” California Governor Jerry Brown said Saturday as he inspected the damage in Ventura County. “It’s a horror and a horror we need to recover from.” The governor pleaded for unity and asked residents to help each other rebuild their lives. “Individuals need to come together to make our communities livable,” he said.
It is certainly a grim outlook for the affected region. So, how can we help?
Well, there are many organizations on the ground in Southern California who are seeking to assist those displaced by the fires. The task is monumental, so these groups are seeking donations, and fast.
You can make an online donation in support of the “California wildfires” relief fund via the Red Cross here. They have already deployed a volunteer chapter to the devastated region.
Another option is Thomas Fire Fund: The United Way of Ventura County has teamed up with the American Red Cross of Ventura County and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services to create a fund to help fire victims. Here’s how you can donate:
- Online: www.vcunitedway.org
- By phone. Call (805) 485-6288 or text UWVC to 4144
- Check. Send by mail to United Way, 702 County Square Dr., Suite 100, Ventura, CA 93003. Write “Thomas Fire Fund” in the memo.
You can also donate to a GoFundMe campaign to help those affected. The fundraising website has compiled a list of various pages that you may wish to donate to. Find this here.
Want to help in person? There are several organizations looking for volunteers and physical donations:
The Salvation Army Ventura Corps: This Salvation Army group is stationed at the Ventura County Fairgrounds is seeking after donations of food and water.
Sherman Oaks East Valley: An L.A.-based donation collection center has been established to help gather donations for fire victims. They are requesting sealed water bottles, food items, new and unused clothing, blankets, and toiletries. The center is at 5056 Van Nuys Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91403. They will be accepting donations until 5 p.m. Friday. After that, call L.A. County at 2-1-1 to find out which agencies are accepting donations.
Samaritan’s Purse: This faith-based humanitarian relief organization is seeking after more volunteers to help victims recover precious belongings from the ashes of their homes.
“The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains responded immediately to have a ministry of presence with the families who were in the shelters. And now Samaritan’s Purse is being able to accompany families back to their property and help them with sifting through the ashes and ministering to their needs,” Samaritan’s Purse wrote on its website.
“Our volunteers will come alongside homeowners in Jesus’ Name to help them recover precious belongings and keepsakes from the ashes.”
Do continue in prayer for all those affected by this horrendous natural disaster.
(H/T: The LA Times)