For a while, Southern California was lush and green thanks to a wet winter that spurred a growth in vegetation.
But the hottest summer ever recorded in California history dried out much of that new greenery, turning the landscape into fuel for whatever fire needed abetting. Then came the Santa Ana winds. Joan Didion once described the air before a gust as an "unnatural stillness." No one is ever fully prepared for what comes after.
In this instance, multiple fires have raged throughout Southern California for the past several days. In total, more than 116,000 acres have burned and more than 200,000 people have been evacuated. One body has been discovered, several animals have lost their lives and a growing number of structures have been destroyed.
Below is a list of ways you can help, virtually and in-person. If you're within driving distance, make sure to check that an area is clear before you head anywhere. The parameters for evacuations continue to change.
Thomas Fire Fund: The Thomas fire in Ventura County has burned at least 96,000 acres. The United Way of Ventura County has partnered with the American Red Cross of Ventura County and the Ventura County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services to create a fund to help fire victims. Here's how you can donate:
- Online: www.vcunitedway.org
- By phone. Call (805) 485-6288 or text UWVC to 4144
- Check. Send by mail to United Way, 702 County Square Dr., Suite 100, Ventura, CA 93003. Write “Thomas Fire Fund” in the memo.
Go Fund Me: Individuals have started fundraising campaigns for those affected by the fires. Go Fund Me has highlighted several.
Sherman Oaks East Valley: An L.A.-based donation collection center has been set up to gather donations for fire victims. They're asking for sealed water bottles, food items, new and unused clothing, blankets, and new and unused toiletries. The center is at 5056 Van Nuys Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91403. They will be accepting donations until 5 p.m. Friday. After that, call L.A. County at 2-1-1 to find out which agencies are accepting donations.
The Salvation Army Ventura Corps: The Salvation Army group stationed at the Ventura County Fairgrounds is asking for donations of food and water.
Catholic Charities: The organization is accepting donations of gently used clothes, as well as new clothes and toys that will be distributed as Christmas gifts. Donations may be dropped off at 303 N. Ventura Ave., Ventura, CA 93001.
Humane Society of Ventura County: More than 100 animals are being housed at the Humane Society location. They're in need of alfalfa hay, Timothy hay, cat food, rabbit food, flashlights, headlamps, lanterns, water troughs, bottled water, fruit, snacks, hoses and power generators, as well as snacks for their volunteers. Donations may be dropped off at the shelter at 402 Bryant St. in Ojai.
If you're unable to donate in person, the group has set up an Amazon registry wish list.
1:15 p.m. on Dec. 9: This article was updated with additional details about how to donate to the Humane Society of Ventura County.
2:50 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details about Sherman Oaks East Valley donation collection center.