Credit: Zach Donnenfield | Mustang News

Noemi Khachian is a communication studies sophomore and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.

The wildfires in California have forced thousand of people from their homes — homes that are now destroyed. A total of 153,336 acres have burned in the northern part of the state; another 96,949 acres have turned to ash in the south, according to Cal Fire. The two blazes have claimed at least 87 lives so far.

I know people want to help. It’s incredible to see how communities join together to provide relief. But so many people still have the urge to do something yet feel so helpless when confronted with such an enormous situation like this. Ultimately, no act is too small. Everything counts, everything is appreciated and anything helps.

First, research before you donate. Whether it’s money, clothes, food, or your time that you’re giving, research will ensure your actions can have the most direct impact. There are general relief efforts like The California Fire Foundation and the American Red Cross. Then there are housing efforts, like the Airbnb Evacuee Program and the Salvation Army providing shelter for those who have lost their homes. There are even animal services like the Humane Society and the Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation to provide shelter and aid to lost and evacuated animals. Lastly, you can volunteer where you go out with an organization and help where help is needed.

If you cannot physically help, you can send packages to relief centers, fire stations or friends and family. Don’t be fooled — this does not mean sending blankets, food, snack bars or eyedrops to firefighters — as you may have seen in recent social media postings. The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) said this is just a “rumor” and “couldn’t be farther from the truth.” They explained that although their recent budget isn’t able to support the donation of personal care items, food or water on the fire line is “thankfully is NOT needed at the time.” If anything, these kinds of donations are on the border of causing harm. LAFD stations are well prepared for situations like these, so when they return to their stations to find gallons of water and thousands of pounds of food taking up space, maintaining it becomes an unmanageable task. They recommend that rather than donating to them directly, you should donate to foundations that support them like the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region, in addition to other non-profits that are supportive in times of crisis. A few of them include the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation, where lifesaving backpacks are put together, or Widows, Orphans, and Disabled Firemen’s Fund, or the Fire Family Foundation.

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