On Sunday night in San Francisco, the smell of smoke floated into my bedroom. A few minutes later, I was glued to the news, learning of the massive firestorm engulfing my beloved childhood stomping ground of Sonoma County. It was 1 a.m. I knew my parents were asleep, but I texted them in a panic, warning them about the fires. Blessedly, the flames had (and have) not reached Sebastopol, where they live.
In the coming days, I watched a nightmare unfold. The fires tore through entire communities, destroying homes, landmarks, restaurants and wineries. Some had time to evacuate, while others were forced to flee in haste with just the clothes on their backs. Many had to leave pets behind and are now frantically posting photos in hopes of finding them again.
Vast stretches of Santa Rosa have been leveled into a post-apocalyptic landscape—dead, blackened trees and the bare chimneys of houses sticking up from the ground like tombs. A college friend lost her childhood home on her birthday, her family’s treasures and photos reduced to ash and rubble. My friend’s grade school art teacher stood in a pool with her husband for 6 hours while the world burned around them. Our close family friends had to evacuate from their house in Santa Rosa, and we’ve spent the last few days watching the fire practically lick at their doorstep as firefighters fight to protect the houses in their community. The death toll is now at 32.
In the midst of this astronomical tragedy, our community has come together as only the North Bay can. Facebook, often a source of negativity for me, has been inundated with friends helping each other, sharing resources and connecting friends with those in need. A request for help evacuating 54 horses from a ranch in Napa rendered a stream of responses and shares, and folks with horse trailers quickly arrived on the scene to help.
Restaurants and wineries across the North Bay have dedicated themselves to providing free food and respite for those in need. Friends and strangers are working together tirelessly to help however they can. Volunteering at shelters, harvesting crops and preparing meals, rallying friends, raising money for folks who’ve lost their homes—I’ve never seen such an outpouring of love, heroism and strength.
But the scope of these fires is immense, and they continue to blaze, with winds expected to pick up over the weekend. Thousands of homes are gone, and many more are at risk. Those who have lost their houses must now rebuild their lives from nothing. The North Bay has been hit hard. It will take years to recover from this loss.
I’m asking for your help to support my incredible community, whether it be $20, the donation of goods, giving temporary housing to a family in need or fostering an animal to help make room at a shelter for displaced animals. There is so much you can do.
HOW TO HELP (Refer to this all-encompassing live document with regularly updated information).
- The Redwood Credit Union’s donation fund is local and goes directly to the victims of the fires.
- The Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund is another awesome local organization that gives directly to the people.
- The Ceres Project is providing meals for fire evacuees. They need volunteers and donations of bulk food, and they are also accepting cash donations.
- Sonoma County Recovery matches people in need with those who can give. It’s a flexible and effective way to instantly help a family.
- Sonoma Valley Fire Support.
- Northern California Fire Relief Fund — 100 percent of all donations will go to the organizations and agencies on the ground.
- Race for Kids — Grassroots fundraiser with a team of volunteers who are buying supplies for shelters as new needs arise.
- Redwood Empire Food Bank needs cash for food supplies.
- Latino Community Foundation is raising money to support three Latino nonprofits—North Bay Organizing Project, in Santa Rosa; La Luz Center, in Sonoma; and UpValley Family Centers in Calistoga.
- YouCaring Tubbs Fire Victims Fund.
- Bay Area Firefighters & Families Fund.
- AUTISM School – Anova Education: This school was destroyed in the fire and is a crucial resource for our community.
- Wine Country Animal Lovers needs money for pet surgeries and burn victims.
- Hopalong & Second Chance needs money for displaced animals and fostering programs.
- Marin Humane Society needs money for animal burn victims to offset the cost of care.
- Petaluma Animal Center needs donations to cover costs of care.
- Sonoma Humane Society needs donations to care for homeless injured stray animals and provide no-cost burn treatment for fire victims.
- Milo Foundation had to evacuate from its sanctuary in Willits and moved all animals to a facility in Point Richmond. They desperately need fosters, volunteers and donations.
- Wonder Dog Rescue is taking in strays from the fires (should include a note in the donation stating that this is for the fire relief fund).
- Rocket Dog Rescue is delivering supplies and taking strays.
- The Red Cross is seeking volunteers to assist fire evacuees. Click here to register. It also needs cash donations. You can give online, call 800-RED-CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
- Give to a California food bank helping victims.
- Register as a disaster service worker.
- Register to house fire victims.
Most shelters are no longer taking used clothing and are only accepting specific, new items. Frequently needed items:
- N95 or N100 respirator masks
- New socks and undergarments for all genders and ages
- Storage bins
- Animal cages of all sizes
- Dog leashes and harnesses
- Hair brushes, hair ties, combs
- Gift cards
- New pillowcases, sheets, blankets
- Tampons, pads
- Lip balm
- New flip flops, shower sandals
- New sweatpants