California Wildfires

Posted on August 07, 2018

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

Raging twin wildfires, together known as the Mendocino Complex Fire, erupted in Northern California on July 27th, 2018. The Mendocino Complex has become the state’s largest wildfire in history. The flames have spread over 290,000 acres, encompassing an area the size of Los Angeles and surpassing the Thomas wildfires that burned nearly 282,000 acres in Southern California in 2017. The twin blazes have burnt 75 homes and have forced the evacuation of thousands of people. Heat and poor humidity will continue to hamper firefighters' efforts as they battle this complex fire. Full containment of the blaze is not expected until early September.

Also burning in Northern California is the Carr Fire, which broke out on July 23rd. The Carr Fire has torched 167,000 acres in the Shasta-Trinity area north of Sacramento and was about 45% contained, as of this morning. It has been blamed for at least seven deaths, including two firefighters.

More than 14,000 personnel from California and across the country are fighting these wildfires that currently plague the state. The Pentagon recently announced that it will send in about 200 soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State to help with the firefighting efforts.

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, healthcare, 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 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
Operation USAA-
Samaritan's PurseA-

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