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North Bay Fires — How to Help

Updated with additional links on Oct. 16, 2017.

Dear readers,

The North Bay fires are the most important story in our region this week. And the rescue, recovery and rebuilding efforts that will emerge from this devastation will dominate headlines and draw our collective attention for months and years to come.

As you know, the San Francisco Public Press focuses on long-term, local in-depth investigations. Sometimes we report breaking news in San Francisco, but we are not equipped to cover expansive, rapidly changing events on the scale and scope of the North Bay fires.

We would like to acknowledge the critical reporting being done by our colleagues at local and regional newspapers, and television and radio outlets throughout Northern California. Their tireless efforts are helping us all wrap our heads around what is happening as wind-fueled wildfires wreck lives and vibrant communities.

We’d like to share some information and resources that you may find useful whether you are seeking assistance or looking for ways to support communities that need help.

How to give help

The California Report has assembled an extensive list of organizations that can use your help: “From Donations to Volunteering: How to Help Fire Victims

KALW's "Your Call" broadcast from Rohnert Park on Thursday with a program on fire relief efforts and ways to help people displaced by the fires.

How to get help

FEMA and the Small Business Administration are offering help: “Sonoma County Fire Victims Urged to Apply for Federal Aid” (Press Democrat) and "Where Fire Victims Can Apply for Tax Relief and FEMA Grants and Loans" (San Francisco Chronicle)

How to find loved ones. (San Francisco Chronicle) And reunite with lost pets. (SF Weekly) And find shelters and information about school closures. (KQED News)

Updates on the fires

All live updates from the San Francisco Chronicle (usually limited to subscribers) are available via SFGate.

In addition to extensive reporting, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat features a comprehensive containment index for all the North Bay fires.

Fire Containment Index from The Press Democrat

The Bay Area has been experiencing the regional effects all week. According to the East Bay Times, there’s more to come — “Smoke Getting Worse: Here’s Where It’s Headed

The Department of Homeland Security has formally suspended immigration enforcement in areas affected by the wildfires. (San Francisco Chronicle)

More from around the region

Sonoma County’s Latino Workforce Faces Job Losses From Fires” (KQED News)

North Bay Tragedy Prompts Memories, Insights From 1991 Firestorm Survivors” (Berkeleyside)

North Bay Open Space Managers Wait to Survey Losses” (Bay Nature)

Northern California Wildfires Drive Tribes From Their Homes (Grist/High Country News)

"The 13 Worst Wildfires in California History" (Sfist)

"No, 'Essential Oils' Will Not Clear the California Fire Smoke Out of Your Air" (Mother Jones)

The Chronicle has created a listing of events organized to support fire victims, followed on the same page by a list of events canceled or postponed and venues closed due to the fires.



From Donations to Volunteering: How to Help Fire Victims

By Michelle Cheng, KQED News Fix/The California Report

Whether it’s donating money or volunteering, there are various ways to help out those impacted by the wildfires in Northern California. During times of uncertainty, one of the best ways to help out those impacted by the fires is by giving money. In addition, donations of basic necessities and volunteers are also needed.

Here is a list of organizations accepting financial donations:

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix/The California Report

Cal State Gets Federal Grant to Train More Latinos to Become Teachers


Studies show black and Latino students perform better in school when their teachers look like them, but in California, most teachers are white.

A new $8.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to the California State University will finance efforts to train more Latinos to become teachers.

Read the story at EdSource.

Doctors Warn Against Health Hazards of Wildfire Smoke

KQED News Fix/State of Health

The Bay Area awoke this week to hints of the wildfire disaster up north: Gray ash and a smoky smell that lingered for hours, even in areas more than 50 miles from the fires. Along with flames, smoke exposure is one of the biggest health hazards from wildfires. It can cause mild irritation such as stinging eyes and sore throats to severe afflications that include asthma, heart attacks and even death.

“It’s a concerning time for me as a physician,” said Dr. Robert Blount, a pulmonologist at UCSF who researches the health effects of air pollution. “Typically, you’re going to see an increase in outpatient visits, also ER visits.”

Read the story at KQED News Fix/State of Health.

What Deferred Action Has Achieved and What May Be at Risk

El Tecolote

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is one of the Obama era's most successful programs.  A recent survey of more than 3,000 DACA recipients conducted by UC San Diego, United We Dream, the National Immigration Law Center and the Center for American Progress shows how much of an effect DACA has had.

Of those who responded, 94 percent have pursued higher education, an option denied to them before DACA, and more than 90 percent are now employed.

Read the story at El Tecolote. 

S.F. Health Officials Ramp Up Efforts to Vaccinate Homeless Residents Against Hepatitis A

Mission Local

As Hepatitis A outbreaks have appeared among homeless residents elsewhere in the state, San Francisco is ramping up efforts to prevent an outbreak here offering free vaccines to the homeless as well as stepped up efforts this month that will include pop-up clinics and more outreach in the camps.

Jesse Ballinger-Wydle, a homeless veteran living in the South of Market area, said he was unaware of the outbreak until health department workers stopped by his corner last week.

Read the story at Mission Local. 

Investigations of Officer-Involved Shootings Abound in S.F., but So Do Delays

Mission Local

San Francisco police officers got the call at 11:35 p.m. on a Saturday about a domestic disturbance. They arrived at the Russian Hill apartment to hear Damian Murray threatening his wife and two children with a gun. For three hours, crisis negotiators tried to calm Murray. And then, a gunshot fired in the apartment, officers broke down the door and one of four shots hit Murray. He died later that night.

The officer-involved shooting prompted five investigations, but if the past is an indicator, it will take at least 22 months to complete any of them — a time frame a San Francisco civil grand jury called “unacceptable.” The 2016 Department of Justice report agreed, noting that only one officer-involved shooting case had been closed from 2013 to 2015.

Read the story at Mission Local. 

Youth Homelessness Rises in the Affluent Bay Area


The Bay Area, one of the most affluent regions in the country, is also home to nearly 15,000 homeless children.

Most live in urban areas, but they also live in the wealthy enclaves:  Menlo Park,  San Ramon Valley, Ross in Marin County, where the median household income can exceed $200,000. And these children are undercounted: Parents report to schools whether their family is homeless, and they have plenty of reasons not to admit to it — fear of deportation, fear of the government taking their children away, and shame.

Read the story at EdSource

Cities Get Ready to Deal With New Housing Rules — on Their Own Terms


Gov. Jerry Brown has done his part: He's signed into law bills that focus on California’s housing crisis. Now cities and counties are stepping up to the task to start implementing the state’s new housing agenda.

“The idea is that we have to comply with these laws of the state of California now,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, whose city has seen, for years,  fights between pro- and slow-development forces. “And so how can we comply … but also preserve some degree of local control?”

Read the story at CALmatters. 

Public Press Weekly: Mapping Mother Earth

The Bay Area has its environmental challenges — drought, temblors here and there, and occasional triple-digit temperatures. But climate change has introduced a new threat: sea level rise, with tides predicted to be as much as 10 feet higher before the end of the century (Public Press). We’re doing more than wishing for a different outcome. Recruited to participate in the Resilient by Design project, 10 teams will map strategies for how the Bay Area can best react to future coastal inundations (KQED Science). In a salvo against a soggy future, San Francisco and Oakland have separately sued five major oil companies over the firms’ role in global warming, and the cities want billions to pay for projects protecting Bay Area people and property against rising seas (BuzzFeed News).

Mapping bad stuff isn’t limited to floods. If you’re worried about whether your home will fall through a fissure in the next earthquake, you can take a look at the U.S. Geological Survey’s liquefaction susceptibility map of San Francisco (SF Gate). It pinpoints the kinds of soils that affect how much a building shakes in a quake, like, bedrock (low risk) to landfill (high risk). This bit of information, depending on where you’re living, would be a good thing to know before the next Big One.

Also in the news is the improved mapping tool of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool (Earth Island Journal). It now allows the public to overlay the locations of the country’s 6,000-plus prisons, jails and detention centers with information about environmental hazards such as superfund and hazardous waste sites.

The Bay Area: the Good, the Bad and the Pricey

The economy here is fine shape, so says a recent study: “Bay Area Economy Growing Three Times Faster Than National Average” (San Francisco Business Times). But that’s cold comfort to those thinking about fleeing because of the stratospheric housing costs: “Amid Housing Pain, Most Californians Have Weighed a Move” (New York Times). Housing woes have punched up the state’s poverty rate to the highest in the country: “How Sky-High Housing Costs Make California the Poorest State” (CALmatters).

Traffic is also a factor in the misery calculus, having increased in the Bay Area 80 percent since 2010: “Traffic on Major Bay Area Freeways Has Grown 80 Percent Since 2010” (The Mercury News).

There are a few bright spots, though.

Parents whose child-care costs are a major budget buster soon may be getting a break, at least in San Francisco: “Parents Say High Cost Is a Major Barrier to Obtaining Child Care” (EdSource). The Board of Supervisors weighed in by backing a ballot measure to guarantee access to affordable child care: “Supervisors Propose Universal Child Care Ballot Measure” (Hoodline).

Those who help feed people in need might learn from the Trinity County Food Bank, which successfully operates in one of the state’s most food insecure places: “In Isolated Trinity County, This Man Is a Food Lifeline” (KQED News).