The wildfires that tore through Southern California earlier this month have left heartache and devastation in their wake. The wild Santa Ana winds have brought a new and terrifying level of destruction to an already vulnerable landscape. The largest of the fires, the Thomas Fire, continues to burn in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. It is currently the third largest fire in California history. The Creek, Rye, and Skirball fires are almost fully contained, as is the Lilac Fire in San Diego County.

With both human and animal lives lost in the catastrophes, many people would, and should like to help the survivors to endure their current circumstances and rebuild their lives.

When deciding how to help, it can be tempting to run around your house and gather material donations for people. However, it is important to remember that aid agencies often need cash donations when dealing with crisis situations. With cash, necessary items can be bought quickly and easily. It is important to be well-informed when deciding whether to donate cash, goods, or time when offering support to victims of natural disasters.

For those wishing to help the animal victims of the wildfires, there are several animal aid and rescue organizations working in areas that need assistance. The Humane Society of Ventura County is requesting monetary donations to help with the displaced animals currently in their care. Volunteers are accepted; however, they must phone ahead instead and not just show up unannounced. The Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation has a disaster relief fund that also can be contributed to.

Local charities accepting monetary donations include the United Way of Ventura County, the American Red Cross of Ventura County (which has opened three shelters), the Ventura County Community Foundation, the San Diego Foundation, and the Salvation Army (food and water donations are being accepted at the Ventura County Fairgrounds for evacuees). Additionally, donations can be made to specific individuals or families affected by the wildfires through crowdfunding sites such as and

Local residents that wish to volunteer to assist those affected can visit the Red Cross website, enter their zip code, and search through the current volunteer opportunities to find a suitable match.

Giving support in an emergency enriches the lives of all involved: donor and receiver. Please help if you are able to do so, and promote charitable action by spreading the word.