Online Resources Offer Relief to California Fire Victims

As public safety agencies work to contain and stop all of the fires that have struck California, various online and physical resources play a significant role in helping victims recover from and cope with their losses.

by / November 7, 2019
Vines surround a burning building as the Kincade Fire burns through the Jimtown community of unincorporated Sonoma County, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. AP

Fires have terrorized Californians in the last several weeks, and various organizations from the private and public sectors have responded by offering an array of resources to help those who have been injured or displaced.

One resource comes from software company Socrata: a map of available Federal Emergency Management Agency shelters and open homes. The map has a search bar where a user can enter an address, at which point the map zooms in on that location, revealing any nearby places of refuge. 

Socrata’s map is populated with private rooms, houses and apartments form Airbnb's Open Homes program.

There are numerous online disaster relief funds for victims in California. The California Fire Foundation has its Supplying Aid to Victims of Emergency (SAVE) program, which provides timely money to victims in the short term for critical items like food, clothing and first aid. The money is put on $250 SAVE gift cards that are then distributed by frontline firefighters. 

For intermediate or long-term needs of fire victims, there is the California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund, which can help with everything from home rebuilding to respiratory equipment. This program includes funds for both Northern and Southern California. 

The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has set up a Statewide Wildlife Recovery Resources website. This site links users to a variety of different programs and types of assistance, spanning categories like debris removal, financial resources and incident data. 

Specialized assistance exists for individuals with special communication needs. The U.S. Society of Augmentative and Alternative Communication wants to be contacted through this site about any cases where a victim has lost their augmentative and alternative communication equipment in a California fire. The organization says it remains on standby to help with such cases. 

The California Department of Social Services has an online guide that outlines disaster relief programs and services for immigrants, both documented and undocumented. 

Location-specific resources are also available. One effort involves a partnership between St. Mary’s Cathedral, the San Francisco Department of Technology and local wireless Internet service provider Monkeybrains. Monkeybrains and the department worked hastily in late October to install a fiber connection as well as Wi-Fi access points for a St. Mary’s shelter, which can house about 200 displaced people. 

Then there’s the Sonoma Family Meal fund, which accepts donations here. This program connects fire victims with high-quality, chef-made meals. 

Victims of the Kincade Fire can take advantage of Redwood Empire Food Bank’s emergency program, which offers assistance to those who have lost food to fire.

For victims in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles says individuals and families can reach out to the pastor of their nearest church for shelter, food and other needs. Such information can be tracked down at la-archdiocese.org or by calling 213-637-7000. More information on efforts to provide relief for victims in Southern California can be accessed here

Platforms & Programs