Wildfire Disaster Relief Services in California: How to Help Those Impacted by 2021 Fires


Record-setting wildfires here in California have leveled entire communities and displaced thousands of residents. As the fires continue to burn, relief organizations working alongside the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) are on the ground providing support for survivors and emergency workers.

Currently, Red Cross disaster workers are helping wildfire evacuees find a safe place to shelter, provide them with food to eat, and offer emotional support during this challenging time. Since June, the Red Cross has provided nearly 11,300 overnight stays for people in need.

In addition, the Red Cross has also provided financial assistance to more than 1,100 people who have experienced loss due to recent wildfires. Financial assistance allows people to make their own decisions and prioritize what their family needs most to start recovering. Funds can help families replace clothes or food, offset transportation costs, or support any other immediate need.

Remember, unsolicited donations of items like food or clothing can actually overwhelm relief organizations, so it’s best to check what is needed before giving.

“One consistent need in all disasters is cash. By giving to a local community foundation, your donation will either go to help rebuild, fund the responding non-profits, or directly support the survivors,” said Cal OES Chief of the Office of Private Sector / NGO Coordination. “If you don’t have extra cash to give but do have items such as clothing or household items, we would encourage you to be creative – hold a yard sale, host a bake sale, have a car wash – and have the proceeds go to the disaster communities. Any amount can be helpful – as long as it gets to the right place.”

For those looking to make monetary donations to people affected by the 2021 wildfires, the California’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) has partnered with Philanthropy California to maintain a vetted list of relief funds where you can safely donate cash. This list is updated on a regular basis and users can filter the list based on region and beneficiary.

It’s important to note that Philanthropy California is the only philanthropic non-profit organization supporting wildfire survivors that we as a state endorse. Philanthropy California is an alliance of Northern California Grantmakers, Southern California Grantmakers, and Catalyst of San Diego and Imperial Counties.

Below is a few of the organizations vetted by Philanthropy California that are currently accepting monetary donations, a complete list can be found here:

  • The California Community Foundation Wildfire Recovery Fund focuses on intermediate and long-term recovery needs that follow wildfires in California, with special efforts to serve the most disaster-vulnerable populations including the disabled, farmworkers and other migrant communities whose homes and employment are impacted by wildfires, Native American populations living on or proximate to impacted tribal lands, economically-disadvantaged populations without resources to respond to and recover from wildfire impacts, and specific impacted vulnerable populations whose lives have also been affected by structural racism which limit their practical ability to access disaster response, recovery and mitigation resources. You can donate here. 
  • The California Fire Foundation administers a variety of programs that provide assistance to the victims, firefighters, and communities that are affected by natural disaster. These programs support critical needs of those touched by natural disaster — from immediate assistance to long-term recovery. You can donate here.
  • The California Tribal Fund was created to support California-based, California-Native-led nonprofits and tribal programs in controlling and protecting their food systems, water, languages, traditional ecological knowledge, and land.  The fund currently accepts donations to address drought emergencies and wildfire impacts in tribal communities. You can donate here.
  • All donations to the Global Giving California Wildfire Relief Fund 2021 will support wildfire relief and recovery efforts in California. Initially, the fund helps first responders meet survivors’ immediate needs for food, fuel, clean water, medicine, and shelter. As needs emerge, we will support longer-term recovery efforts run by local, vetted organizations in the impacted area(s), particularly those working with low-income, historically underserved communities. You can donate here.
  • The Latino Community Foundationprovides support for Latino-led organizations that are helping Latino and immigrant families who have been displaced by fires throughout the state. You can donate here.
  • The League of California Community Foundations has established a fund to provide a centralized opportunity for funders to invest in disaster resilience and response through community foundations – trusted intermediaries who are deeply connected to affected communities. The Disaster Relief, Recovery, and Resilience Fund will support the response to, recovery from, and resilience to natural hazard events for communities across the state of California. A key focus area of the fund is supporting resilience through disaster prevention, mitigation, and preparedness, in addition to disaster relief and recovery. To contribute to the Disaster Relief, Recovery and Resilience Fund please contactthe League of California Community Foundations directly.
  • United Way of Northern California is accepting donations, offering help and supporting programs to assist with relief and long-term recovery operations. The fund provides emergency cash grants to those who lost their homes and assist nonprofit partners in their provision of direct services to survivors. It also provides help for survivors through mid- to long-term wildfire recovery programs.