Wildfires burn across California.

As wildfires continue to burn, Save the Children is assessing the needs of both our staff and the communities in which we work in California and Washington to support them with immediate relief. 

California Wildfires: Facts, FAQs and How to Help

Devastating and destructive wildfires continue to spread across California, Washington and Oregon at an alarming rate. The 2020 West Coast wildfires have burned millions of acres, caused multiple casualties, destroyed thousands of homes and other structures, and have displaced thousands who are under mandatory evacuation orders.  In addition, extremely low air quality permeates the West Coast and poses a significant danger to those in vulnerable health categories.

Here's what you need to know about how the unprecedented wildfires started, what to do to protect yourself and others, and how to help children and families affected by wildfires.

FAQs:

How and when did the California wildfires start?
How large are the California wildfires?
How do the 2020 California wildfires compare to previous years?
How are children affected by the California wildfires?
How does smoke from the wildfires affect children?
How can children be protected against wildfire smoke?
How has COVID-19 impacted the wildfire response?
How is Save the Children responding to the California wildfires?
What is Save the Children's history of working in California and Washington?
How can I help children and families impacted by the California wildfires?

How and when did the California wildfires start?

Most of the wildfires in California are caused by people, including The El Dorado Fire which started burning on Saturday, September 5, 2020, and has since grown to more than 10,000 acres.

In contrast, the Santiam Fire in Oregon was reportedly caused by knocked-down power lines that ignited small fires and grew on historically high winds in the Santiam Canyon area. 

How large are the California wildfires?

Since the beginning of 2020, wildfires have burned more than 3.2 million acres in California, an area roughly the same size as Connecticut. 
 
According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), nearly 90 active wildfires have burned more than 4.6 million acres nationally. 
 

How do the 2020 California wildfires compare to previous years? 

Millions of acres of land have burned as a result of dozens of wildfires in 2020.  More than 3.2 million acres in California alone have gone up in flames so far this year. That number greatly surpasses the state’s 2018 record of more than 1.9 million acres. 
 

How are children affected by wildfires?

Wildfires are scary and disruptive for kids – they can take children away from their homes, their schools and their friends.
 
During the Australian bushfires, Save the Children warned of the importance of addressing the long-term mental health needs of children impacted by wildfires. “(Fires) are incredibly frightening events and the psychological toll can last a very long time if not properly addressed,” said Paul Ronalds, head of Save the Children in Australia. 
 
“For children, there is so much uncertainty around what’s happening. Their entire lives have been uprooted, and often they don’t know whether their home is still standing or what happened to their friends, relatives, and pets."
 
As the global leader in child-focused humanitarian response, Save the Children is committed to reducing the impact of disasters on children through effective preparedness, response and recovery. Our experts have provided 10 Wildfire Safety Tips to Keep Children Safe to show parents what to do if there is a wildfire. 
 

How can smoke from the wildfires affect children?

Children’s immune systems are still developing, leaving their rapidly growing bodies more sensitive and at greater risk of longer-lasting health effects from wildfire smoke inhalation – such as allergies and infection.

How can children be protected against wildfire smoke?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance for protecting children from wildfire smoke

Experts have also warned that poor air quality could aggravate COVID-19 symptoms or make people cough more, making them more contagious if they are infected.

How has COVID-19 impacted the wildfire response?

COVID-19 has impacted the wildfire response through a shortage of N-95 masks that protect against smoke inhalation. Health officials warn that the symptoms of COVID-19 can be worsened by inhaling wildfire smoke.

How is Save the Children responding to the California wildfires?

Save the Children’s emergency response team and local program staff in California and Washington mobilized early to help meet the most urgent needs of children living in some of the areas hardest hit by the ongoing wildfires.
 
To date, our emergency response teams have delivered emergency relief supplies to children and families in Central Valley, California, and southern Washington – including 30,000 KN95 masks to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, as well as air purifying fans to improve the air quality in their homes.
 

What is Save the Children's history of working in California and Washington?

Save the Children has been leading high-quality early education programs in both California and Washington for more than a decade (California since 2004, Washington since 2008) in some of the states’ most impoverished, isolated rural communities, to help children succeed in school and life.

How can I help children and families who have been impacted by the California wildfires?

A donation to the 2020 U.S. Wildfires Children's Relief Fund will help support the urgent needs of children and families impacted by the wildfires.

Learn more about Save the Children’s emergency response programs in the U.S. and around the world.

Ten percent of funds donated for specific emergencies go to our emergency reserves Children's Emergency Fund.

Updated: September 30, 2020

Welcome!

We’ll be in touch! By signing up to receive emails from Save the Children you will receive a subscription to our monthly eNews, access to breaking emergency alerts and opportunities to get involved. To ensure delivery of Save the Children emails to your inbox, add support@savechildren.org to your contact list.