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Wildfires 2020

Active Emergency
August 1, 2020
California, U.S Pacific Northwest

A Country on Fire

Wildfires are now burning across a dozen states, where more than 100 active large fires have burned more than 4 million acres. In California, there are currently more than two dozen major wildfires at varying levels of containment. Hundreds of fires have burned over 3 million acres in California alone and the worst of fire season is still ahead in September and October. Three major fire systems burning in California are nearly contained: the CZU /Lightning Complex (San Mateo, Santa Cruz counties); the LNU Lightning Complex (Lake, Sonoma, Napa, Solano counties); and the SCU Lightning Complex (Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara counties). The August Complex Fire, the largest in California’s history, has consumed more than 817,000 acres, and continues to burn. California Governor Gavin Newsom said the state has seen more than 7,600 wildfires so far in 2020.

Hundreds of homes, businesses and other buildings have burned to the ground, at least 35 deaths have been reported, many more are missing and hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate as hot, dry and windy weather across the West has left parts of California, Oregon and Washington under siege from what is being called an unprecedented fire season, far surpassing any season on record. Entire communities have been obliterated while smoke and ash have made the air dangerous to breathe. The fires are being described as “apocalyptic” as the threats from climate change become all too real for many residents of the three states. At the same time. California is also working to slow a resurgence of the Global COVID Pandemic.

Americares Emergency Team is responding.

CalFire firefighters from Santa Cruz work to contain fire near a home on Bonny Doon Road while fighting the CZU August Lightning Complex fire in Bonny Doon northwest of Santa Cruz. The fire was sparked by lightning and has burned throughout broad regions of rural San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. (Photo by David Royal)

Recent Fire Facts

1. Oregon is facing possibly the greatest loss of human life and property due to fast moving wildfires, now the largest in state history. Half a million people, or 10% of the state’s population, are under evacuation and dozens remain missing.

2. California has seen six of the largest 20 wildfires in state history this year, burning more than 3 million acres. Multiple fires are merging together to create complex large-scale fires, such as the August fire which is now the largest in state history. Thousands of structures are threatened and more than 1,000 homes destroyed.

3. Washington has seen towns overrun by blazes and hundreds of homes still at risk.

4. Fires have generated smoke and ash throughout the West, compromising air quality for millions. Three US cities (Seattle, Portland and San Francisco) were reported to have the worst air quality in the world.

A structure burns during the Carmel Fire in east Carmel Valley. (Photo by David Royal)

Our Response

Emergency Programs, led by our California-based team members, is actively engaged with county, region, and state emergency response coordination bodies. In addition, the Emergency Team  has reached out to health centers and partners to offer support. At this time, Americares is sending truckloads of bottled water to Food Banks in Santa Rosa and Solano County. Along with a local partner, we will be providing cash assistance to families who have been displaced or otherwise severely impacted by the fires. Since people who are having to evacuate are being sheltered in hotel rooms rather than large communal shelters, cash assistance is emerging as the most effective and efficient means of immediate assistance for basic needs.

The Need

Conversations with frontline health workers, social service providers and non-profit response organizations indicate immense need. Clinics are reporting double the number of patients as they care for people who have evacuated their own communities. Americares is supporting these clinics with the additional PPE they need given the uptick in consultations. In addition, because most COVID-19 testing is conducted outdoors, many clinics have had to pause testing given the dangerous air quality. As clinics resume COVID-19 testing, these supply shipments will follow the truckloads of bottled water that have been previously delivered to support fire response in California (over one million bottles). Additionally, two truckloads of bottled water have been requested for Oregon. Overall to date, we have committed $2.5 million in aid.

Read more about our response.

Following Americares response to the devastating 2018 and 2019 California wildfires, the organization has undertaken a robust disaster preparedness and mental health initiative designed to build the capacity of safety-net health centers in fire-prone regions of California.