If You Want To Help Fire Victims, Resist The Urge To Volunteer

Jonathan Stahl, 41, of Valencia, Calif., and his 91-year-old grandmother Beverly Stahl of the Sylmar area of Los Angeles, pose at the evacuation center at the Sylmar Recreation Center after the Saddleridge wildfire Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. (Stefanie Dazio/AP)

Southern California is on fire right now, with tens of thousands of people displaced. The thought may break your heart, but if you have the urge to help by donating items or assist people directly - resist it.

It may cause more trouble for aid organizations already in place.

Trying to donate objects like clothes, blankets and food can be difficult to manage.

"Items that are used/collected are very hard to actually ship and distribute, and more often than not, they create a burden and are warehoused or trashed rather than delivered where they might be needed," according to a spokesperson from Operation USA. "In the wake of fires, cash will be the best way to help those who are impacted."

Meanwhile, if you'd like to get your hands dirty and help people one-on-one, it's not as easy as showing up.

Local community groups may host events and drives, but organizations like the Red Cross say it takes a bit of time before you be a volunteer.

It may be a week of training at least before they can deploy you to assist people. They accept applications here.

Don't be too disappointed that you can't volunteer right away, though, because many services are needed well after the flames are extinguished. For example, volunteers might work with people to connect them with the right organizations and providers to help them get back on their feet.

For a more complete list of organizations that take donations and are looking for volunteers, check out this guide created for 2018's Woolsey Fire, which still holds up today.

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