Southland residents interested in helping local fire victims were urged Sunday to contribute money rather than goods to nonprofit organizations working directly with victims.
"During a natural disaster with constant images of destruction on television and social media, public reaction is to want to help, and we are so grateful for that support,'' said sheriff's Chief Maria Gutierrez, who is also director of the Los Angeles County Emergency Operations Center. "The easiest and most effective way to get support to those who need it most is to donate to organizations offering direct assistance."
Sorting, storing and repackaging donated goods takes time, while money allows nonprofits like the Red Cross and United Way to be nimble in providing immediate support and provide assistance for weeks to come.
Officials also warned members of the public to stay clear of fire-affected areas that need to remain clear for first responders and continuing evacuation and repair efforts.
Many people have responded to the disaster generously.
At a Sunday morning press conference, Calabasas Mayor Fred Gaines told the story of rival football players at a Calabasas High School game bringing cases of water and food for Calabasas residents.
He thanked the San Juan Hills players for their "thoughtfulness, humanity and class."
For others who want to help, Gaines said, "The best thing you can do is contact the Red Cross."
Donations to the Red Cross can be made at www.redcross.org or by phone at (800) RED-CROSS (733-2767). Residents interested in volunteering can reach out to the local agency at (866) 548-8226 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The United Way has set up a disaster relief fund specifically to help families affected by the Southern California fires.
"For low-income individuals and families, a wildfire can mean the difference between staying housed and becoming homeless. Affected families need support to rebuild their lives, and we are proud to help give them a lifeline in this critical time," said Elise Buik, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles.
Gifts can be made at unitedwayla.org or by calling (213) 808-6220.
The Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation is seeking donations at https://lacountyanimals.org to fund food, shelter and medical care for dogs, cats, horses and other animals displaced in the care. County animal care officials are also asking residents to foster animals to free up local shelters. More information on fostering can be found at www.animalcare.lacounty.gov.
The Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation provides fire and life safety training for children and adults. Donations can be made to the foundation at www.lacfdf.org or by mailing a check to 42104 23rd St West Lancaster, CA 93536.
Los Angeles City Councilman Bob Blumenfield urged San Fernando Valley residents interested in donating goods or volunteering to come to an event at a donations center set up at 19040 Vanowen St. in Reseda. The center will be open until 2 p.m. Sunday accepting donations and also needs boxing and moving tape.
Officials also warned residents with open hearts to remain wary of scams and only make donations to reputable first responder, relief and animal aid organizations.
For local information on ways to help, please join NBCLA's Southern California Wildfires Facebook group.