▶ Watch Video: Climate change causing wildfires to become more intense

Unprecedented wildfires have been spreading across the West Coast of the United States, and they show no signs of slowing. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands have fled their homes and tens of thousands have gone without power in the midst of a historic heat wave

The death toll from fires in California, Oregon and Washington state stood at least 17 on Friday: One in Washington, four in Oregon and 12 in California. Smoke has turned the sky bright shades of red and orange, worsening air quality as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the U.S. 

In California, over 3.1 million acres have burned — a state record — with six of the state’s 20 largest wildfires in history currently burning. Officials in Oregon estimate that roughly 500,000 people — more than 10% of Oregon’s population — have been forced to evacuate their homes. Washington Governor Jay Inslee called the fires “cataclysmic,” according to The Associated Press.  

While extreme weather is a part of the natural cycle, the recent uptick in the ferocity and frequency of these extremes is evidence of an acceleration of climate change, reports CBS News meteorologist and climate specialist Jeff Berardelli. 

State officials continue to reiterate the need to tackle climate change in order to prevent future fire seasons like this one. “We do not have time to deny the reality of climate change,” California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted Tuesday. 

A woman walks along The Embarcadero under an orange smoke-filled sky in San Francisco, California on September 9, 2020. 

BRITTANY HOSEA-SMALL/AFP via Getty Images

How to help evacuees 

  • Donate to the American Red Cross by writing “California Wildfires,” “Oregon Wildfires” or “Washington Wildfires” in the memo line of a check and mailing it to your local Red Cross chapter with the completed donation form. For California wildfires, you can also text “CAWILDFIRES” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Local residents can volunteer their services. 
  • The Salvation Army is providing food, water and emotional support to evacuees and first responders in several locations.
  • Extra room in your home? Offer to host people in need of emergency housing on AirBnB
  • Donate to various wildfire relief funds through the nonprofit GlobalGiving
  • The California Community Fund and Oregon Community Fund support both immediate disaster relief and long-term recovery efforts.
  • GoFundMe.org has set up a general relief fund to distribute grants to various individual and community campaigns.
  • World Central Kitchen, founded by chef José Andrés, is providing tens of thousands of meals across California.
  • United Way chapters in various regions offer immediate and long-term recovery assistance, providing housing and other basic needs to displaced families. 

How to help firefighters 

  • The California Fire Foundation provides financial and emotional support to surviving families of fallen firefighters, firefighters, and their communities.
  • Direct Relief provides N-95 masks, medicine and resources to first responders. 
  • The Los Angeles County Fire Foundation financially and emotionally supports paramedics, firefighters, lifeguards and other personnel.
  • The National First Responders Fund provides support including post-traumatic stress treatment, cancer prevention, toxic exposure, chemical dependency and critical incident support, outreach and activation. 
  • The Wildland Firefighter Foundation helps families of fallen firefighters and assists injured firefighters and their families. 

How to help animals 

  • Red Rover, an organization that helps animals during crises, has a comprehensive list of pet-friendly lodging, animal shelters, animal hospitals, open fairgrounds, equestrian centers, transportation options and locations to pick up pet food and supplies in California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado. You can donate directly to Red Rover, or find a local organization on its website.
  • The Volunteers for the Emergency Management of Animals Network works to connect volunteer services with animal owners during crises. Volunteers can provide temporary homes or transportation to a wide variety of animals.

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