California Wildfires

Posted on November 12, 2018

CharityWatch announces a list of highly efficient and accountable charities involved in efforts to provide assistance to victims of the California wildfires.

Updated on November 14, 2018

Three major wildfires in California have displaced hundreds of thousands of people and have destroyed thousands of homes and buildings. The Camp Fire in Northern California’s Sierra Nevada foothills has become the state’s most destructive wildfire on record, as well as the state’s deadliest wildfire since the 1933 Griffith Park wildfire. It has scorched at least 130,000 acres. The town of Paradise was virtually obliterated with nearly 7,000 structures ravaged. In Southern California, over 100,000 acres have been incinerated by the Woolsey and Hill fires. A fourth, smaller fire, the Sierra Fire, ignited east of Los Angeles in Fontana on the night of November 13th. Statewide, at least 50 people have died, and over 200 people may still be missing.

California is experiencing one of the worst wildfire seasons on record, fueled by strong Santa Ana winds and near record dry conditions. After a request by Governor Jerry Brown, President Trump approved a federal Major Disaster Declaration for California, which makes the hardest-hit areas eligible for housing, unemployment and other support programs while allowing state and local governments to repair or replace fire-damaged structures. More than 8,000 firefighters have battled the blazes.

The Related Charities listed below perform favorably in relation to CharityWatch benchmarks:

1) A charity should spend at least 75% of its budget on program services.
2) A charity should spend no more than $25 to raise $100.

Contact your favorite charities to find out if they provide the specific types of aid that you would like to fund, e.g., emergency shelters, food and water, health care, psychological trauma counseling, rebuilding efforts, etc.


As with any charitable contribution, Americans wanting to help with disaster relief efforts should only give to legitimate charities with an established track record of helping people in need.

  • Be on guard for a surge of solicitations related to any highly publicized crisis. There will be fraudulent charity solicitations, some involving websites and email links attempting to steal your credit card information for identity theft or insert malware on your computer.
  • Do not respond to, or click on any attachments, links or pictures included in, emails or text messages received from unknown senders.
  • Social media will include many fake victims. Do not donate to unknown individuals purporting to need aid that post on Facebook, GoFundMe, etc. These may be fraudsters, and even if they are legitimate victims, they may receive an unfairly large amount of aid.
  • Scammers may try to use copy-cat names similar to those of well-known charities. Avoid name confusion by independently verifying that the charity is legitimate before you donate. Reputable charities will not pressure you to give immediately.
  • Beware of individuals or others claiming to be third party intermediaries for charities or those in need. It is best to give directly only to the charities that you are confident are legitimate and recognized for providing disaster or humanitarian relief.


The best way to help is by sending a check or donating securely by credit card. Such cash donations enable charities to buy the most needed types of food, medicine, clothing, shelter materials, and other supplies. By buying relief products locally or regionally, charities can reduce shipping costs and more rapidly deliver assistance. Before sending any goods, first contact the charity to find out if they are appropriate and if it will be cost effective to distribute them. For example, after a tsunami in the Pacific, boxes of donated winter coats, scarves and fuzzy hats, completely useless items in tsunami-stricken nations with tropical climates, were sent.

CharityWatch identifies the following charities, which are providing relief to the California wildfire victims, that receive an “A” or “B+” grade based on the portion of their budget going to program services and their fundraising efficiency. Contact the organizations below for information on specific relief operations now underway.

Related Charities

American HumaneA
American Red CrossB+
Best Friends Animal SocietyB+
Direct Relief & Direct Relief FoundationA
Episcopal Relief & DevelopmentA
Operation USAA-
Samaritan's PurseA-
United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)A+

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