Santa Barbara Wildfire Relief
News | July 28, 2017 by National Headquarters
Several dangerous and relentless wildfires have now erupted across the state of California, burning through buildings, threatening animal life, and forcing thousands of residents from their homes. Air quality has become a concern as well, as the flames continue to blaze and parch the land. California Governor, Jerry Brown, has also declared this situation to be an emergency as more homes continue to burn.
Exacerbated by the recent low humidity and high temperatures, the Whittier fire, which sparked on July 8th, has stretched on for more than 18,430 acres across Santa Barbara County. Our relief volunteers in Los Angeles have undertaken multiple fire relief efforts previously, including the 2016 Border Fire and Erskine Fire, and quickly mobilized once more to aid the people of California. Partnering with the American Red Cross, volunteers conducted assessment of the ravaged areas, and arranged plans to meet the immediate needs of those affected.
July 15, 2017
Our first small-scale emergency relief event for affected individuals took place on July 15. Many of these families lived squarely in the Camp Whittier area, and are now displaced. A common sentiment that each care recipient shared with us is the authentic gratitude for their safety, as one woman in her seventies explained:
“At our age, we cannot imagine that we are starting with nothing, and starting all over again. But like I said, we have each other, we have our life.”
Some of the individuals we spoke to had lost seemingly everything - their home, treasured objects from their childhood, and their peace of mind as they are suddenly immersed in chaos and uncertainty. However, there is an undeniable truth in this: whenever we face times of distress, there will always be others who will help light the way forward. As one care recipient succinctly put, the world may be large, but we are all one family.
“The one thing about the fire that I’ve realized is that people reach out from all over. I’ve had friends that I haven’t talked to in 40 years call.”
Cash cards were given to each person, providing immediate financial aid directly in their hands. When struck by a disaster, compassion is just as essential, and our relief volunteers provide a balm to their spirits with sincerity and a ready ear.
“We don’t need a lot of clothes, we don’t have places to put it right now. We don’t need crates of food, because we don’t have places to put it.
But this is very helpful.”
We will continue to provide aid to more families impacted by these devastating wildfires, and steadily guide residents on the road to recovery.
July 20, 2017
The wildfires in Santa Barbara, California, have turned many lives upside down, and left residents in shock and distress. With the aid our partners at the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, we held another emergency relief event, providing cash cards to those affected by the Whittier fire.
A care recipient named Stefanie also told us of her experience as she discovered the news while she was away - pictures and coverage on social media had been her only window into the possible condition of her home. She had held hope that the fire was not so severe, but as she sat in her hotel and absorbed the continued news updates, she came to accept the reality of the disaster.
“The ashes were coming, and they were falling like rain… and it was orange outside.”
Stefanie expressed gratefulness at the fact that everyone from her community made it through the fire unharmed, and that they would all bravely take the path before them one step at a time.
Our volunteers additionally conducted further assessment of individuals homes that were completely destroyed. Hearts were heavy as we scouted the communities affected, walking through the ash of care recipient’s old lives. The ground was strewn with charred furniture, the twisted, melted remnants of homes, and cars whose exteriors had dripped onto the driveways. Residents did their best to remain positive, however, as they felt the love and care of all those who would stand by them, and readily provide their assistance.
“It can be a little tough, you know, going through something like this. But with so many helping hands, it’s made it doable… And [we] really appreciate that.”
We aim to provide further compassionate care, and help shoulder the weight of distress alongside those impacted.