By the end of November 2018, California had experienced nearly 8,000 unique fires – with more than 1.8 million acres of land destroyed. Three fires that started on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018 drew significant attention due to their location close to major cities and their rapid spread. While all three are now contained, the damage and loss of life was significant.

The Camp Fire was located in Butte County and within six hours had burned 18,000 acres triggering extremely rapid evacuations in several communities. At one point it was consuming 80 football fields a minute. All 26,000 people in the town of Paradise, located about 85 miles north of Sacramento were ordered to evacuate; 95 percent of the homes in the town, and most other buildings, were destroyed by the fire. Over the course of nearly three weeks, the fire burned 153,336 acres and destroyed 18,733 structures, including 14,000 residences. At least 85 deaths have been attributed to this fire and 2 people are still unaccounted for. In addition, at least five firefighters were injured. The Camp Fire was the most destructive and deadliest fire in California history.

In Southern California, a Santa Ana wind affected the spread of the Hill Fire and Woolsey Fire. The Hill Fire started in the afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Over the course of a week, the fire burned more than 4,531 acres. By Friday night, Nov. 16, it was 100 percent contained. It affected the same area as the 2013 Springs Fire.

The Woolsey Fire began south of Simi Valley and spread quickly overnight on Thursday, Nov. 8. Over the course of two weeks, the fire claimed three lives, burned 96,949 acres and destroyed 1,500 structures. The entire town of Oak Park – population approximately 14,000 – was evacuated. Mandatory evacuations included Thousand Oaks which was also affected by an active shooter Wednesday, Nov. 7, when a lone gunman killed 12 people, including a police officer, at a country and western bar.

The fire, which forced more than 250,000 people from Malibu to Thousand Oaks to evacuate, was 100 percent contained as of Wednesday night, Nov. 21.

On Nov. 12, President Trump approved a major disaster declaration for California.

Critical Needs

  • Immediate needs include shelter, food, evacuation support, family reconnection and case management.
  • Recovery needs for each wildfire area vary, but attention should be given to long-term support for rehousing, income recovery, agricultural needs and additional preparedness support to vulnerable populations. Due to the high death toll and damage levels, mental health support and counseling services will be a significant need.
  • As with most disasters, cash donations are recommended by disaster experts as they allow for on-the-ground agencies to direct funds to the greatest area of need, support economic recovery and ensure donation management doesn’t detract from disaster recovery needs.
  • In response to recovery needs that will arise following these devastating wildfires, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy has launched the CDP California Wildfires Recovery Fund. The fund will support medium and long-term recovery needs that will continue to surface throughout the wildfire-affected areas of California in the coming weeks and months.


If you are a responding NGO or a donor, please send updates on how you are working in this crisis to tanya.gulliver-garcia@disasterphilanthropy.org.

If you are a donor looking for recommendations on how to help in this crisis, please email regine.webster@disasterphilanthropy.org.

Learn More

  • Foundation Center is tracking philanthropic contributions to the California wildfires. See the latest data
  • California Resources for those affected can be found here.
  • The latest mapping information on California fires can be found here.
  • California Wildfires State Recovery Resources is available here.
  • Read the CDP Wildfire Issue Insight
  • Read CDP funding strategies for wildfires here.
  • Review the CDP Playbook for response strategies and mechanisms.