Wildfires are a devastating phenomenon that have become increasingly common in California. Not only can a wildfire leave a path of destruction, but it can also alter ecosystems and cause significant changes in the burned areas.
Wildfires are destructive and can cause mass chaos for those living in fire-prone areas. If you or someone you know is a wildfire victim, it is essential to know the resources available to help you get back on your feet.
This blog post will provide resources and information to those affected by a wildfire.
What Happens After a Wildfire: Public Health and Safety
After a wildfire, public health and safety is the priority, with emergency responders rushing to protect and take care of those in the area. Nevertheless, the effects of a wildfire can linger for years.
Natural resources like trees that were burned can take decades to regrow and there can be public health issues from air quality depending on the scale of the fire.
Social media is an important tool used in preparedness by providing information quickly and allowing people to follow the progress of response efforts. Firefighters have also begun to look at managing their social media presence as part of their emergency response plan.
Wildfire incidents demand complex response plans, which rely heavily on public awareness through social media.
What Happens After a Wildfire: Recovery and Rehabilitation
After forest fires have been contained, forest service officials quickly begin the course of recovery. This includes cleanup efforts and replanting where appropriate. They also work hard to reseed as native wildflowers as possible to best aid in the following ecology processes. While some trees may not survive, forest service officials always take care to assess for any potential salvageable resources that can be used for repurposing or further study.
Recovery from forest fires is a long process, but with the dedication of forest service and other supportive organizations, vibrant ecosystems can emerge again.
After a wildland wildfire has been extinguished, the resulting impacts on the natural forest can often linger for months afterward. Fire suppression efforts, such as quickly dousing a fire with water and sometimes chemicals, may help save trees and other vegetation from being completely burned down.
But it also can diminish wildland health by allowing soil erosion due to lack of root systems to hold back ground-level soils. This can lead to certain areas becoming more prone to flash floods as well as causing displacement of local wildlife since their natural habitats have been lost due to the loss of vegetation.
On the other hand, while wildfires consume dead trees, grasses, and other organic matter on the forest floor, the fire may cause beneficial elements to be redistributed throughout ecosystems. These include the sediments that help new plants germinate and the nutrients that replenish the soil. When destroyed by fire, ecosystems can experience long-term ecological damage through erosion and veldt burning.
How to Stay Safe After a Wildfire
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 58,985 wildfires occurred in 2021, a total of 7,125,643 acres across the United States.
California sees the most wildfires in any state, with an average of 9,280 fires and a total of 2,233,666 acres per year. This amounts to 2,040,600 estimated properties at risk.
Wildfires are a year-round threat in California. Thousands of acres of land are blackened by these destructive blazes every year, and countless homes and lives are lost. In the aftermath of a wildfire, ensuring your safety and well-being is crucial.
If you live in a California fire zone, knowing what to do after a wildfire is just as important as preparing for it.
Here are some tips to help you stay safe in the event of a wildfire:
- Stay alert to changing weather conditions. After a wildfire, watch for signs of windy or wet weather that could cause mudslides or flash floods.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Watch for falling or smoldering debris, downed power lines, gas leaks, and other hazards.
- Stay on designated roads and trails. This will help avoid areas that may be unstable or with potential new fires to start.
- If you smell smoke or see flames, immediately evacuate the area. Do not try to fight the fire yourself.
- Monitor local news for updated information about the fire’s location and spread.
- Take care of your health in the aftermath of a wildfire. Stay hydrated, rest as needed, and avoid touching your eyes or face. Avoid strenuous activity. The air quality will be poor after a wildfire, and avoiding further stress on your lungs is crucial. Wildfires can cause severe respiratory problems, so seek medical attention if you experience any difficulty breathing.
What to Do After a Wildfire: Tips and Resources for Victims of California Wildfires
Wildfires are becoming more common and destructive as climate change takes its toll on our environment. California has been particularly hard hit by these devastating fires in the past few years. As victims struggle to rebuild their lives, they face many challenges, including a lack of resources and information.
Here are some tips and resources to help those affected by a California wildfire.
Get Food Assistance if Needed
If you’ve been affected by a wildfire in California, you may be eligible for food assistance. The first step is to contact your local county welfare office or human services agency. You’ll need to provide proof of your identity and residency, as well as proof of your income and assets.
According to the California Department of Social Services, victims of the recent wildfires in California may be eligible for food assistance. To apply, victims can visit www.calfresh.ca.gov or call (877) 847-3663. Those eligible for CalFresh will receive a monthly deposit onto an Electronic Benefits Transfer card, which can be used to purchase food at participating stores.
Disaster CalFresh, federally known as Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or D-SNAP, gives food benefits to those impacted by disasters who were ineligible for regular CalFresh before the wildfire.
For more information on food assistance programs in California, victims can visit the Department of Social Services website or call the customer service hotline.
Check Insurance Coverages
One of the first things victims should do is check their insurance coverage. Homeowners’ insurance typically covers damages from fire, smoke, and ash, but it does not cover losses from evacuation or loss of use.
In the case of wildfire damage, most standard homeowner’s insurance policies will not cover the full extent of the damage.
Wildfires are considered “acts of God” and are not covered by most insurance policies. This is why it is crucial to speak to a wildfire litigation attorney who can help you get the total compensation you deserve.
Insurance companies are not always on the policyholder’s side and may try to give less money than you are entitled to. Before accepting any insurance settlements, you must speak with a wildfire litigation attorney who can help you navigate the process and get the maximum compensation you deserve.
An experienced wildfire litigation attorney can help victims navigate the often complicated legal landscape and ensure they receive the compensation they deserve.
The Frantz Law Group has a team of California wildfire attorneys with years of experience handling these cases.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.
Seek Mental Health Support if Needed
The emotional toll of losing one’s home, possessions, and perhaps even loved ones can be overwhelming. Many people who have experienced a wildfire report feeling anxious, depressed, and isolated.
If you are struggling to cope with your emotions, seek professional help. Many resources are available to wildfire victims, including counseling services and support groups.
You can also call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 for 24/7 crisis counseling and support.
Remember, you are not alone in this—seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Schedule Debris and Ash Removal
Contact your local authorities to see if they have a debris and ash removal program. If so, they will provide you with a list of approved contractors.
The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery offers a free ash and debris removal program for residents affected by the recent wildfires.
California’s free ash and debris removal program is coordinated by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and local governments.
Residents can visit the website or call the designated hotline to schedule a pick-up.
Ensure Water, Electricity, and Gas Safety
After a fire, one of the most important things is ensuring that your utilities are safe to use. Here are some tips:
- Water: If you have a private well, have it tested for bacteria and other contaminants before using it. If you are on a public water system, listen to announcements from your water provider about any changes in your water quality.
- Electricity: Check for damage to your home’s electrical system, and do not use electrical appliances that may have been damaged by smoke or heat. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, do not try to repair them yourself—call an electrician.
- Gas: If you have natural gas service, check for damage to gas lines. Avoid repairing them on your own—contact the local gas company. When you turn on your furnace or stove after the fire, open a window and stay outside until you can smell gas, then light the appliance. Turning on your appliances is probably safe if you can’t smell gas. But if you still have concerns, call the gas company.
Seek Property Tax Relief and Unemployment Assistance if Needed
You may be eligible for property tax relief if your home or business has been damaged or destroyed in a California wildfire.
The state allows taxpayers who have lost their homes or businesses to apply for a reassessment of their property taxes. This reassessment will reflect the property’s current value, typically much lower than the pre-fire value.
To learn more, please visit the California State Board of Equalization.
Victims of wildfires may also be eligible for unemployment assistance, which can help cover the cost of living expenses while you cannot work due to the fire. Remember that you must provide documentation of your employment history and earnings.
To apply for unemployment benefits, you will need to contact the California Employment Development Department. You may receive up to 26 weeks of benefits if you meet the eligibility requirements.
Other Resources for California Wildfire Victims
Cal OES has many different partners they work alongside to help those affected by emergencies like wildfires. Visit the California Office of Emergency Services website for more information about resources available to Californians affected by wildfires.
Get Help from Wildfire Litigation Attorneys at Frantz Law Group
If you have been affected by the recent California wildfires, several resources are available to help you—from debris removal and tax relief to legal assistance.
At Frantz Law Group, our team of experienced wildfire attorneys can provide the legal advice and representation you need to get the compensation you deserve.
We understand how devastating wildfires can be and are dedicated to helping you protect your rights and recover the compensation you are entitled to.
Contact us today for a free consultation.