The Valley Fire that started burning in Lake County on Saturday, September 12, has destroyed over 70,000 acres and forced more than 17,000 people in Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties to evacuate. Damage is still being assessed as the fire rages on, but hundreds of homes have already been destroyed and thousands of structures are still in danger. This is Lake County’s third major fire in three months.

Through the devastation, the outpouring of community support and the individual stories of sacrifice and hope have been awe-inspiring.

Where, how and what to donate

The Red Cross tweeted earlier, “We have what we need to shelter, feed & clothe the evacuees.” and is asking for financial donations instead. You can donate online at redcross.org. To make a quick $10 donation, just text the word “Red Cross” to 90999.

However, many smaller donation centers and non-profits are still in need of supplies. Click here for a list of nonprofits, businesses and individuals in Lake County who are dedicated to the fire relief effort and requesting donations. As noted on the website, “We recommend being vigilant when evaluating an organization to give to. This is a volunteer compiled list and not all opportunities have been verified.”

Here at Coldwell Banker, our Marin and Sonoma County area offices are collecting donations. While general food and clothing donations are welcomed, there is a greater need for every day items like sunscreen and batteries, as well as useful items boots for hiking through debris. Click here for more information and a list of offices serving as donation centers.

Helping those who help us: a fund for firefighters

While firefighters work tirelessly to combat the wildfire, many of them have also lost their homes and all of their belongings. Just to name a few, Battalion Chief Paul Duncan and Communications Operator Courtney Duncan lost their home in Hidden Valley, Fire Captain Justin Galvan lost his home in Middletown, FF Matt Maxwell lost his home in Middletown, FF Dave Watkins lost his home in Hidden Valley and FF Robert Hamblin-Taylor lost his home in Cobb.

Cal Fire worked with the “Forestry Crabfeed” to set up a fund to help all of these employees. For those wishing to donate you can mail checks to the following: Forestry Crabfeed FF Relief Fund, 2210 West College Ave, Santa Rosa, Ca 95401. Attn: Olga Leitch. 100% of the money collected will be given directly to the employees. The Forestry Crabfeed, which was established as a benevolent fund to assist the employees in the Sonoma Lake Napa Unit, is a non-profit 501c3 so your donation is tax deductible (tax payer ID 45-3748304). Click here for more information on how you can help the firefighters.

Volunteer your time

In addition to money and goods, volunteers are in demand. If you’d like to volunteer your time, visit californiavolunteers.org to pre-register to provide volunteer assistance. According to the website, “Help may be needed with donations management (receive, sort and distribute donated goods). Other volunteer needs may arise as relief efforts continue.“ The Red Cross is also asking for volunteers. You can fill out an online application here.

This fire hits close to home for me. Literally, as the fire is in my backyard (I grew up in Marin County), but also because I was a fire victim years ago and I can personally attest to the survival mechanism that kicks in during a fire forcing one to evacuate as quickly as possible – which can leave you with nothing. As the flames engulfed my home, I didn’t think about anything other than getting out to safety – I fled without my car keys, cell phone, wallet or any personal items. My roommate didn’t even put on shoes.

And we were just young college kids at the time. It was a rented house, most of the items inside were second hand and of little monetary or sentimental value. I had a room back at my parent’s house filled with photos, clothes and memories. And still, it was devastating. We returned to the house not knowing what would be left. The firemen let us in for 10 minutes to grab what we could – but it was futile. What wasn’t physically burned suffered smoke and water damage. This was over 10 years ago, but I still remember the outpouring of support from my college. We only had two months left of the semester. We were given temporary housing, clothes, furniture, and enough to get us through the school year. Those donations and the emotional support meant the world.

So while I can’t begin to fully understand what these victims are going through losing entire homes and communities, I have a small idea. And I know how much any help of money, goods or time will mean to those affected.

For additional information and ways you can help, visit ABC7 or the Red Cross of the California Northwest. You can also follow @RedCrossCalNW for real-time updates.

#GiveWhereYouLive

Featured Photo: Middletown, California. Photo by Matthew Keys.