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2019 California Wildfires

   Oct 31, 2019

CharityWatch announces a list of highly efficient and accountable charities involved in efforts to provide assistance to victims of the California wildfires.

It used to be called “fire season” in California. “We’re now calling it a fire year,” said Robert Baird, a regional director at the U.S. Forest Service. According to California forest officials, climate change is considered a key driver of the longer fire seasons. Global warming has added to California’s ever-intensifying droughts. The abundance of dry vegetation is one of the key ingredients for fire fuel. The fall season brings the greatest potential for fire with the Diablo and Santa Ana winds ripping across the state.

A recent study reportedly published in Earth’s Future suggests that the increasing size of the wildfires across California over the past 50 years is attributable to climate change drying out the land. “Since the early 1970s, California’s annual wildfire extent increased fivefold, punctuated by extremely large and destructive wildfires in 2017 and 2018,” the researchers wrote, according to CBS News. “This will only get worse in the future,” a CBS News climate and weather contributor said.

As of late October, over 6,190 fires have been recorded, totaling an estimated more than 198,000 acres of burned land. There are at least five named fires ravaging the state, as of October 31st. The largest fire, the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, has burned over 76,000 acres. The Easy and Getty Fires have devastated over 2,400 acres in the southern part of the state. The most recent fires, the Hillside Fire and 46 Fire, broke out in San Bernardino and east of Los Angeles in the Jurupa Valley, respectively. Over 100,000 structures have been threatened by the Kincade, Easy and Getty Fires, and evacuation orders have affected an estimated 153,000 people living near the Kincade, Easy and Hillside Fires. The Kincade Fire has reportedly destroyed 133 homes.

Although controversial, California’s Pacific Gas & Electric and other power utilities have preemptively shut off power service to nearly one million residents in hopes of keeping their equipment from igniting new fires. It is still early in the California fire season, but experts warn that 2019 could possibly be worse than last year, which was the deadliest and most destructive season on record.  

The charities listed below perform favorably in relation to CharityWatch benchmarks:
1) A charity should spend at least 75% of its budget on program services.
2) A charity should spend no more than $25 to raise $100.

Contact your favorite charities to find out if they provide the specific types of aid that you would like to fund, e.g., emergency shelters, food and water, health care, psychological trauma counseling, rebuilding efforts, etc.


As with any charitable contribution, Americans wanting to help with disaster relief efforts should only give to legitimate charities with an established track record of helping people in need.

  • Be on guard for a surge of solicitations related to any highly publicized crisis. There will be fraudulent charity solicitations, some involving websites and email links attempting to steal your credit card information for identity theft or insert malware on your computer.
  • Do not respond to, or click on any attachments, links or pictures included in, emails or text messages received from unknown senders.
  • Social media will include many fake victims. Do not donate to unknown individuals purporting to need aid that post on Facebook, GoFundMe, etc. These may be fraudsters, and even if they are legitimate victims, they may receive an unfairly large amount of aid.
  • Scammers may try to use copy-cat names similar to those of well-known charities. Avoid name confusion by independently verifying that the charity is legitimate before you donate. Reputable charities will not pressure you to give immediately.
  • Beware of individuals or others claiming to be third party intermediaries for charities or those in need. It is best to give directly only to the charities that you are confident are legitimate and recognized for providing disaster or humanitarian relief.


The best way to help is by sending a check or donating securely by credit card. Such cash donations enable charities to buy the most needed types of food, medicine, clothing, shelter materials, and other supplies. By buying relief products locally or regionally, charities can reduce shipping costs and more rapidly deliver assistance. Before sending any goods, first contact the charity to find out if they are appropriate and if it will be cost effective to distribute them. For example, after a tsunami in the Pacific, boxes of donated winter coats, scarves and fuzzy hats, completely useless items in tsunami-stricken nations with tropical climates, were sent.

CharityWatch identifies the following Top-Rated charities, which are providing relief to the California wildfire victims and receive an “A” or “B+” grade based on the portion of their budget going to program services and their fundraising efficiency. Top-Rated charities also must meet CharityWatch's Governance and Transparency benchmarks. Contact the organizations below for information on specific relief operations now underway.

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