How to Help Southern California Fire Victims

After terrible fires in Northern California riveted the nation in October, Southern California is in the news for a similar series of fast-moving blazes. While the homes of the rich and famous may be occupying headlines, Southern California is socioeconomically diverse, and many will struggle to recover after the fire – especially those with inadequate or no insurance, like renters, undocumented immigrants and other vulnerable populations.

What we know

Multiple fires are burning in Southern California: The largest and most significant as of Thursday evening, according to Cal Fire, were the Skirball Fire, Rye Fire, Little Mountain Fire, Thomas Fir and Creek Fire, in addition to the Lilac Fire, which broke out late Thursday in San Diego County. The agency is struggling to contain these fires, but high winds make conditions so hazardous that firefighters can’t access certain areas.

Over 5,000 firefighters – including convict labor – are working in Southern California, while more than 50,000 people have been evacuated. Meanwhile, thousands of structures are at risk, and over 450 have already burned. The governor has declared a state of emergency for Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, which opens up avenues for federal disaster funding.

Conditions are so intense, between growing winds and very low humidity, that the state was forced up upgrade its fire danger score, adding a new color: purple.

How to help

There are a number of ways you can aid the people, businesses and animals affected by the Southern California fires. These options will likely grow in the coming days, so exercise judicious caution as you vet charities to determine where to send your donations.

Cash for victims: The Thomas Fire Fund, administered by United Way of Ventura County, is accepting donations of cash aid that will be given directly to victims. You can also donate to the Direct Impact Fund or to the United Way of Los Angeles County’s fire fund.

Services: The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles is likely to see an uptick in needy users trying to untangle the legal aftermath of the fires. The LA Justice Fund supports immigrants facing legal proceedings. The Independent Living Center of Southern California supports the disability community, as does the Disability Community Resource Center.

Catholic Charities of Los Angeles is providing support — you don’t have to be Catholic to get help! The LA Food Bank helps those in need year-round, and will be feeding fire evacuees as well. The Los Angeles Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America provides a variety of community services to low-income communities in need, including free legal clinics.

Animals: Los Angeles Animal Services needs donations and fosters — or adoptions, if you have room to take in an animal to clear room for evacuees and strays. Other groups providing animal care include: the Humane Society of Ventura County and the LA County Animal Care Foundation.

In-kind donations of supplies and equipment are usually not helpful unless they’re specifically requested — groups can almost always get the things they need more efficiently by buying directly. If you want to donate goods, check with charitable organizations to see what’s on their wish lists.

If you have services to donate — such as legal skills — get in touch with groups that might benefit. Be aware that self-deployment in disasters is usually discouraged, in an effort to keep transit and resources clear for people who live in the area.

You can also make a difference by contacting your legislators: Tell them that you support federal aid for California wildfire recovery.

What’s next

Two issues should be on your radar right now: the tax bill, and homelessness.

What do taxes have to do with this? A lot, for people who incur personal losses in wildfires. Historically, such losses could be included as a tax write off, but not under the new bill, which would end the use of tax deductions for natural disasters. With one caveat: The bill carves out an exception for those who suffered losses in the severe hurricanes that struck earlier this year.

California residents will also face a hit due to the elimination of the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, which allows people to deduct their local taxes from their federal returns.

The October wildfires have exacerbated an already severe issue with homelessness in regions with skyrocketing costs of living. Losing housing stock has made competitive rental and purchase markets even worse, with working and lower class people losing out. Some fire evacuees who lost everything are homeless, while others are venturing further afield in the hopes of finding a place to live. Significant losses in Southern California could cause a similar problem.

Photo Credit: California National Guard/Flickr


Marie W
Marie Wabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing

Chad A
Chad Andersonabout a year ago

Thank you!

Stephanie s
Stephanie Y1 years ago

These horrible fires are now a mainstay just like in several Euro countries. Shared. Thank you

Winn A
Winn A1 years ago


Peggy B
Peggy B1 years ago


Sherry K
Sherry Kohn1 years ago

Many thanks to you !

Janet B
Janet B1 years ago


Debbi Wood
Debbi W1 years ago

Diane L, Don't believe what you see in the visitor ads for California or the movies. California is like any other state. I spent most of my life there, and there are wealthy people there like most other states. The majority of fire victims are NOT rich but hard working who have lost their only home, mementos from their childhood, their children, years decades of hard work. Christmas will be in about two weeks, and those victims who lost their homes most likely also lost their Christmas decorations and presents. They are probably just beginning to realize what they lost as the shock wears off.

Added to what they've lost, Dumfutz and the R's want to take away their loss right off, along with losing the other write-offs Californian has. The new proposed tax bill will screw at least 80% of the people, including cuts to medicare, which will cause medicare to __Stop Covering Caner Treatments! Call all of your congressmen and tell them how you feel about losing so much. I keep calling R congressmen/women and telling them that preventing Medicare from covering cancer treatments would be a Death Sentence to all seniors with cancer.

Mike Kely
Mike Kelly1 years ago

Another way you can help protect homeowners in future wildfires, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes is by voting out ever single republican in every election. You see, the new Trump/Ryan "Tax Breaks for Billionaires Bill" eliminates homeowner deductions for natural disasters in order to partially pay homage to the billionaires and their doughy heirs.

Don't believe that your "Christian" republican candidate would do such an un-American thing? Read the Snopes fact check link is below:

Muff-Anne York-Haley

Signed and I donated to the Ventura County Humane Society.