Although fires are a perennial challenge on the West Coast of the United States, recent years have seen record-breaking devastation due to a perfect storm of climatic factors and human sprawl
Over the last few decades, a major complicating factor has played havoc with our planet’s weather patterns: anthropogenic climate change. Dry seasons are longer, rainfall continues to dwindle and expanding communities put increased pressure on natural resources. Humans are also starting more fires than ever thanks to unattended campfires or burning debris, downed powerlines, cigarettes and arson.
The result is a brand-new category of disaster: Megafires – sometimes hundreds of fires burning at varying degrees in increasingly populated areas leading to tremendous amounts of damage and destruction.
Wildfires are one of the most unpredictable disasters; shifting winds can dramatically and immediately alter the course and intensity of the fire with absolutely no warning. People are unavoidably separated from their pets and livestock and wildlife often has nowhere to turn. Toxic pollutants from fires can forever change the biology of the ecosystem making replanting or rebuilding next to impossible.
The North Complex Fire spread across the area of one football field every three seconds.
Intense planning and expert communication can mean the difference between life and death for people and animals. IFAW helps make that possible.
IFAW teams begin working with local partners before “fire season” begins and remain on the ground long after fires are contained. Our team helps partners prepare logistical infrastructure, create connections and establish systems to make the inevitable more manageable.
Thanks to IFAW’s expertise, we can assist wherever needed most to provide life-saving on the ground help: animal search and rescue, veterinary services, equipment and gear provisioning and reunification expertise. IFAW also awards emergency grants to ensure local animal welfare organizations have what they need to continue to care for their community’s animals. Each wildfire teaches critical new lessons that the IFAW team takes with them as they respond to the next disaster.
In 2020, California hosted its worst fire season on record and IFAW was on the ground responding to the North Complex fires which were burning at a rate of 1,000 acres every 30 minutes. We worked with partners to rescue and care for horses, dogs, cats, goats… 590 animals in total amidst a global pandemic.
The devastation in California is not an anomaly; climate change is intensifying disasters at an unsustainable rate. IFAW teams address every link in the chain, working across the globe to address the climate crisis while simultaneously mitigating environmental destruction in the wake of disasters like wildfires.
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The problems we face are urgent, complicated and resistant to change. Real solutions demand creativity, hard work and involvement from people like you.