How to Help Fire-Ravaged California (and Oregon and Washington)

Updated 09/14/20

Two weekends ago, heatwave-fueled freak lightning storms in Northern California sparked hundreds of fires, many of which merged into mega-blazes. Three of these now rank among the top four largest fires in our state’s history. Since the beginning of the crisis (no, not that crisis, the wildfire crisis), the Bay Area has experienced some of the worst air quality in the world.

This labor day weekend ushered in more misery: another heatwave with temperatures hitting a record high of 121°F down in LA, power outages to reduce the risk of power lines igniting extremely dry vegetation during high winds, smoky skies, more fires and a red flag warning of extreme fire risk in the Bay Area. The fact that fire season doesn’t begin until October or November has kept me awake at night—that and the excessive heat.

Covid has made this scenario worse. Those who must flee the fires and their homes risk exposure to the virus in evacuation centers. Covid outbreaks in prisons have sickened many of the inmates that fight California’s wildfires in exchange for a paltry $2 to $5 per day. (By the way, these same inmates may not work as firefighters after finishing their sentences.)

And although more studies are needed, the evidence to date strongly suggests that air pollution significantly increases Covid infections and deaths. Meanwhile, vulnerable, essential farmworkers still work under smoke-blanketed skies during extreme heat. Many of them lack proper face masks.

Farmworkers out in the fields and smoke; Image from @ufwupdates

This is climate change.

How You Can Help

1. Donate

These are just some of the organizations helping those affected by the fires:

2. Get active

I feel as though I say this in every other blog post but please join and support a grassroots organization such as, Sunrise Movement or Extinction Rebellion. All three groups demand that our governments take action on the climate crisis and ensure a just recovery from our simultaneous, intertwined crises: racial, pandemic, global heating, extinction, wealth inequality.

3. Sign petitions

This one tells ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and FOX to make “the connection between extreme weather, climate change, and fossil fuel pollution” in their reporting. I learned about this petition through a weekly newsletter from Bill McKibben, founder of Sign the petition here.

This petition from demands Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his finance minister Chrystia Freeland release the cost of the Trans Mountain pipeline, bought with public money that would be better spent on investing in a green new deal. Sign the petition here.

Are you a college or university student? If your school hasn’t divested from fossil fuels, search for a petition on the Fossil Free website and urge your institution to dump its investments in fossil fuels.

4. Get out the vote

Because seniors make up the majority of poll workers, as a high-risk Covid demographic, they cannot safely man polling centers this election year. Due to the resulting record shortage of poll workers, we’ll face fewer polling stations, longer lines and disenfranchised voters. If you’re young and healthy, you can help save democracy—and get paid! Sign up with Power the Polls to become a poll worker. You’ll receive training and PPE.

Write to underrepresented voters to encourage them to vote. The Big Send letter writing campaign aims to send 10 million letters to voters. So far, volunteers have written over five million letters. Register here to get started. You can make a party of it on Zoom.

5. Vote like our lives depend on it because they do

Find all the information you need to vote at Vote for the environment. Vote for a just recovery. We can create a better world. I believe this even as I look out at our eerie smoke-filled orange sky this morning.

Enter a raffle to win one of two bread saws made from reclaimed wood

UPDATE 09/13/20: The raffle has now ended and I’ve removed the buy buttons for the tickets. We raised $1,912! Thank you everyone who entered!

This raffle is was open to both left- and right-handed US residents.

I’m raffling off two beautiful handmade bread saws for fire relief and will donate one hundred percent of the proceeds to the California Fire Foundation’s Disaster Relief Program. I’ll gladly eat the fees that PayPay charges me on the first $1,000 I raise (I don’t imagine I will raise more than that but please prove me wrong). Each bread saw has a retail value of about $45. If you’re left-handed, the master bread saw maker himself with gladly flip the blade for you.

A bread saw cuts through a crusty loaf like it’s the butter you’ll slather on your slices
Close-up of the stainless steel bandsaw blade
Chandra’s mom gave him this bread saw over 20 years ago

If you’ve jumped on the sourdough bandwagon and don’t have a good bread knife, consider getting a bread saw. I have a very expensive bread knife but I prefer a bread saw. They make quick work of a crusty loaf. (You can find bread saws on Esty.)

Reclaimed oak

My partner Chandra (a talented potter) made these bread saws from reclaimed wood. While choosing an expensive front door for a client at a store recently, he noticed a discarded oak pallet put together with untreated door remnants. So, naturally, he asked if he could have it.

Chandra pried apart the planks of wood and proceeded to cut out, shape, and sand handles before finishing each one with a coat of beeswax. He then cut blades from a new stainless steel bandsaw blade and attached them to the handles. The beautiful, one-of-a-kind bread saws are a pleasure to hold and use. Chandra will flip the blade for left-handed winners.

I’ll draw two tickets at random on Sunday, September 13th at 1pm PT and mail the winners their bread saws. I’ll also update this post with the amount of money we raised for fire relief. Thank you to everyone who enters the drawing or donates to the organizations I listed above. We Californians appreciate it more than you know!

9 Replies to “How to Help Fire-Ravaged California (and Oregon and Washington)”

  1. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your post. Thank you so much for the links!

    1. My pleasure Dorothy! It’s a terrible situation and people want to help but may not know how to.
      Stay well!
      ~ Anne Marie

  2. Thanks Anne-Marie! These are some really helpful websites.

    1. Thank you, Shamim 🙂 Stay well!

  3. Thank you for this very helpful post, very clear and well done. I’m one of your French followers, love all your posts ! We have relatives and friends in Palo Alto and SF and reading your blog is a way of staying close, solidaire, and useful ! Thank you Anne-Marie. As Dorothy said, you can’t imagine all the good you do.!

  4. Thanks for a much needed kick in the pants (aka a dose of motivation).

  5. Thank you for this detailed post and links. I made some donations, signed a petition, and signed up for the Big Send! I have been making calls with the Environmental Voter Project (non-partisan org dedicated to increasing voter turnout, particularly of environmentally minded people). Your activism makes a difference!

  6. Thank you – I have been feeling very helpless, and this gave me a chance to do something(s). Take care.

    1. Hi Nadine,
      I’m glad you found the post helpful. I also always feel better when I take action.
      Stay well,
      Anne Marie

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