SUPPORT YOUR NEIGHBOR
How to Help Those Affected by West Coast Wildfires
As we speak, much of the West Coast is on fire. Apocalyptic scenes fill social media while many of us are experiencing the destruction in real time throughout California, Oregon, and Washington state. Much of 2020 has led the collective to focus on our interconnectedness and consider innovative ways we can care for one another. As we expand deeper into this awareness, we find these current natural disasters to be yet another route to unity. Dive in as we explore ways we can stay safe and lend a helping hand to those who need us now more than ever.
First, let’s explore supports for those directly affected with some guidance from the CDC. If you are in an area near where fires are but are not evacuated, please take every step you can to remain indoors. Smoke exposure can seriously impact your health. If you have power and are using an air conditioner or fans, please ensure your settings are running it in recirculation mode, so smoke-filled air from the outside isn’t drawn into your home. The same sentiment goes for when you are in your vehicle. Avoid using candles, gas, propane, vacuums, wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, and aerosol sprays. No frying or broiling food, either. All of these increase indoor air pollution and the goal is to keep the air inside your home as clean as possible. Avoid strenuous outdoor activities like jogging, mowing the lawn, and even brisk walks with your pup. Again – minimum time spent outdoors is key. But, of course, sometimes there are things that have to be handled outside. If you do need to go out, please wear an N95 mask. If you aren’t able to get your hands on one, try to put a filter with your face mask or double up on masks to avoid as much exposure as possible. Finally, if you’re a smoker, it is really best to give your lungs a break and avoid cigarettes for the time being.
If you’re not directly affected by the fires but want to be a part of the solution, you can donate funds through various sources. GoFundMe has created a centralized hub full of campaigns from folks across California who have been affected by the fires. DirectRelief is a humanitarian organization that supports folks in crisis, including the current wildfire disaster. The Red Cross is also on the ground and could use support both fiscally and through volunteers. Check in with your local shelter – many shelters are overburdened and could use donations of food, water, masks, and blankets. Shelters are essential now more than ever – aside from those who have had to evacuate, there are thousands of houseless people who need to seek shelter from the toxic smoke. Passing out masks and water to those who are experiencing homelessness in a community affected by wildfire is another opportunity to provide immediate and direct support. If you have the means, consider opening up your home to those in your community who have evacuated. We can’t stress enough the importance of COVID-19 testing in this process, so be sure to look into tests near you prior to providing shelter for others. If opening up your home isn’t an option but you have folks in your community who need to evacuate, consider other ways you can support them. Perhaps they need fiscal support in securing shelter, whether that is an Airbnb or hotel room. Or maybe you have a family friend who has a vacant vacation home who is open to sharing their space. Unprecedented times call for innovative means of support and where there is a will, there is a way. Love thy neighbor and support in any means you can.