California Wildfires

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

Posted on December 7, 2017 and Updated on December 11, 2017

The devastating wildfires raging in Southern California have forced evacuations of more than 90,000 people and have shut down major highways. As multiple fires sweep across Ventura and Los Angeles counties, where states of emergency have been declared by the California Governor, hundreds of buildings and homes have burned. The largest of the wildfires, the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, has burned more than 230,000 acres and is now the fifth largest wildfire in modern California history. The Thomas Fire is the largest of the six major wildfires currently ravaging the state. 

The wildfires are only expected to get worse as the strong winds continue to rage. More than 4,000 firefighters and other first responders have been working to save lives and protect homes in the area. The full devastation of these massive wildfires will not be known for weeks as the fires continue to burn in Southern California.

Posted on October 13, 2017

The devastating wildfires raging in Northern California have killed 31 people while hundreds more are reported as missing. More than 191,000 acres and 3,500 structures have burned throughout the state, making the fires among the most destructive in California's history. The largest fires are in Northern California's Mendocino, Napa, and Sonoma counties. It is estimated that over 2,800 residences in Santa Rosa, California have been destroyed by these raging wildfires. About 49,000 customers have no power, and cell phone service has been affected due to dozens of cell phone towers being damaged. Several areas are under evacuation orders as an estimated 50,000 people have been forced to leave their homes for shelters and hotels. Roughly 8,000 firefighters are working to contain the fires. The full devastation of these massive wildfires will not be known for weeks as the fires continue to burn in Northern California.

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, 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.

People need to be on guard concerning the 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.

Social media will include many fake victims. Do not donate to unknown individuals that purport to need aid that post on Facebook, GoFundMe, Generosity by Indiegogo, YouCaring, etc. These may be fraudsters, and even if they are legitimate victims, they may receive an unfairly large amount of aid. (For more related to crowdfunding sites, see CharityWatch's article: Crowdfunding Popularity Continues to Soar Despite Risks to Donors.)

The best way to help is by sending a check. 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 to these nations.

CharityWatch identifies the following Top-Rated charities, which are providing assistance to the victims of the California wildfires and receive an “A” or “B+” grade based on the portion of their budget going to program services and their fundraising efficiency. Top-Rated charities also must meet CharityWatch's Governance and Transparency benchmarks. Contact the organizations below for information on specific assistance operations now underway.

Related Charities

American Red CrossB+
Direct Relief & Direct Relief FoundationA
Episcopal Relief & DevelopmentA

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