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Wildfires 2020

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

A Country on Fire

While weather conditions have improved in parts of the American West, wildfires continue to burn with devastating impact particularly in California. Officials there warn that hot and dry conditions combined with intense winds threaten to reinvigorate what has already been the worst fire season in state history. Wildfires have burned across a dozen states, where more than 100 active large fires have burned more than 5 million acres. Some 8,800 fires in the state have already scorched more than four million acres of land in California, displaced tens of thousands of people and caused the deaths of 31 individuals while destroying more than 10,400 structures. The worst of fire season is still runs through the end of October with high winds and dry conditions creating more danger. Three major fire systems burning in California have been 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, consumed more than 817,000 acres, and continues to burn. The Glass Fire emerged quickly and destroyed wineries and many homes in Napa Valley. Another fire, the Bobcat fire raged in Los Angles County. And now two more fires in Southern California burn out of control and have forced the evacuation of another 100,000 people.

Hundreds of homes, businesses and other buildings have burned to the ground, dozens of deaths have been reported, many more are missing and hundreds of thousands of people were 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. And now Colorado is in the midst of massive fires. The Cameron Peak Fire is the largest in the state’s history. Entire communities have been obliterated in some states while smoke and ash 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. View our latest response update.

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 faced great loss of human life and property due to fast moving wildfires, the largest in state history. Half a million people, or 10% of the state’s population, have at one time been under evacuation and dozens remain missing. Although conditions have improved, fire season is far from over

2. California has seen six of the largest 20 wildfires in state history this year, burning more than 4 million acres. Multiple fires have merged together to create complex large-scale fires, such as the August fire which became the largest in state history. Thousands of structures are threatened and many homes destroyed. Two new fires in Napa and Sonoma counties present major threats in the wine country region.

3. Although conditions have improved. 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) at one point 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 continues to offer support to health centers and partners. Americares is sending truckloads of bottled water to Food Banks in Santa Rosa and Solano County. Along with a local partner, we are providing cash assistance to families who have been displaced or otherwise severely impacted by the fires. Since people who had to evacuate had been sheltered in hotel rooms rather than large communal shelters, cash assistance emerged 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 have indicated immense need. Clinics have reported 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. In response to this unprecedented disaster, Americares has sent 16 shipments to date to health centers and nonprofit partners in California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington along with grant support for 7 partners.

A recent shipment of medical consumables, hygiene supplies, and PPE went to La Clinica del Valle Family Health Care Center. La Clinica has a facility in the city of Phoenix, Oregon that narrowly survived the Almeda Drive Fire that devastated much of Phoenix. The center serves migrant agricultural workers among other vulnerable groups, many of whose homes were destroyed in that fire. Most recently, Americares shipment of medicines, medical supplies, hygiene supplies, and PPE supports Pacific University’s Interprofessional Diabetes Clinic, in Forest Grove, OR. PUIDC is a nonprofit clinic established in 2009 that primarily serves a low-income, uninsured, Latinex community living with diabetes and other associated chronic diseases, many of whom were seriously affected by the recent wildfires.

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.