It's officially fire season. If you want to know how you can ACTUALLY help out during a wildfire in your area, here are some ideas:
If you want to do something to help out firefighters working on the lines, here are some tips to help keep the mayhem in fire camp at a minimum:
- Firefighters are required as part of their job to come FULLY equipped for a two week assignment, with all of their personal gear, toiletries, socks, toothpaste etc. Everybody likes free stuff, but nobody in fire camp should be here unprepared.
- Most camps will turn away donations because they don't have the manpower to deal with distributing them and stuff will just get shuffled off to local food banks, shelters, etc. at the end of the incident. If you INSIST on donating stuff the most useful, most asked things are preventatives like Emergen-C, vitamins, or coffee (see below).
- Firefighters are provided with over the counter medicines like Tylenol and DayQuil, Gold Bond Powder, foot care items, chapstick, sunscreen and insect repellent through the medical unit.
- Homemade/baked goods can open Incident Management teams to health liabilities and will usually be turned away as well. They also violate the contract with food caterers in fire camp who provide everything necessary to meet the firefighter's 6000 calorie a day requirement, including snacks. This is for firefighter health and safety.
- Gatorade, water and ice are all provided. Don't buy this stuff for us.
- Contribute to local volunteer departments who have limited funding and face the toughest job during the first hours of initial attack. The volunteers often have to buy their own boots and supplies without any reimbursement, and they don't get paid like professional wildland firefighters who are on the clock, paid, for 14-16 hours a day.
- Fire camp coffee is brutal. If there is a fire camp near town, pay a few coffees forward at a local coffee stand for the firefighters that will be coming through. Or again, if you insist on bringing something to camp, instant coffee packets (like Starbucks Via) are like gold out here.
- Donate to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation (https://wffoundation.org/). They will be there for the firefighter when they, or their families, truly need it the most.
P.S. - I know that everybody is an expert, so if you're wondering, I am speaking from 15 year of fire experience in both volunteer and paid positions as a Fireline EMT and a Public Information Officer. I have worked all over the U.S. (even Alaska) for every level of Incident Management Team, including running the medical unit for Type 3 firefighting organizations.