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2023 North American Wildfires

Support Hawaii wildfire recovery

Typically, wildfire season across North America has been from spring to fall (although it varies by region).

However, as the effects of climate change increase, disaster seasons are becoming less accurate. Since 2022, CDP’s wildfire profile has run by calendar year. This profile covers wildfires in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

Climate change is having a significant impact on wildfires around the world and across the U.S. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “Climate change, including increased heat, extended drought, and a thirsty atmosphere, has been a key driver in increasing the risk and extent of wildfires in the western United States during the last two decades. Wildfires require the alignment of a number of factors, including temperature, humidity, and the lack of moisture in fuels, such as trees, shrubs, grasses, and forest debris. All these factors have strong direct or indirect ties to climate variability and climate change.”

(Photo by Malachi Brooks on Unsplash)

The National Interagency Fire Center issues a monthly “National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook” on the first of the month. It details weather, drought conditions, past incidents and potential risk. Key points from the Sept. 1 Outlook include:

  • “Significant fire activity continued to increase through August, with the national preparedness level increasing from three to four (scale one to five) on August 17.
  • Year-to-date acres burned for the US is well below the 10-year average at 38%, with a slightly below average number of fires as well, about 96% of average.
  • El Niño continues in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, with the warmest sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. SSTs are consistent with a moderate El Niño, and atmosphere responses to El Niño are being observed. The Climate Prediction Center forecasts El Niño conditions continuing through winter, with a 66% chance of a strong El Niño developing this fall and early winter.
  • Above normal significant fire potential is expected across the portions of the Northwest and northern California in September.
  • Above normal potential is forecast across Hawai’i through December, especially the lee sides, due to long-term drought and periods of enhanced trade winds.
  • Above normal potential is forecast across the Upper Midwest September into October due to long-term drought as well as hot and dry conditions forecast through the first week of September, further drying fuels.
  • Much of the Southern Area from Oklahoma and central Texas eastward through the Lower Mississippi Valley into southern Alabama will have above normal significant fire potential in September before returning to normal potential in October.
  • Above normal potential is also forecast for portions of the Mid-Atlantic, Virginia, and West Virginia in September and October due to long term dryness and the potential for early leaf drop due to drought stressed hardwoods.
  • Below normal significant fire potential is forecast for much of southern and central California in September.”
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About our coverage

Though we would like to, we are unable to share information on every fire across the continent. Below, you will find some general information about the most significant fires of 2023.

We cover fires that significantly impact the surrounding areas and environment and affect residents, especially at-risk populations.

United States

The National Preparedness Level – set by the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group – was decreased on Sept. 7 to Level 3, which means: “Wildfire activity is ongoing through about a quarter of the country, requiring the National Interagency Coordination Center to set priorities, allocate resources, and mobilize wildland firefighters, aircraft and equipment at the national level.”

The National Interagency Fire Center statistics show that, as of Sept. 9, 2023, there have been 43,899 fires this year that have burned 2.33 million acres. This is significantly below the 10-year average (2013-2022) of 44,566 fires and the average acreage of 6.04 million acres.

There are currently 56 large wildfires burning just under 400,000 acres across 10 states. Only two fires are fully contained (the perimeter percentage where there is no risk of further spread), although fires may still burn within the containment area.


While there are currently no significant fires burning in Hawaii (Hawaiian: Hawai’i), several wildfires burned in Hawaii the week of Aug. 6. The largest of these fires, in Lahaina on Maui, was the biggest natural hazard disaster in Hawaii’s history and has the highest number of deaths in a wildfire since 1918. The unique nature of the fires – a combination of drought, lightning and Hurricane Dora – was highlighted in this Reuters interactive story.

Lahaina is a tourist town. It was home to 12,000 people and had dozens of historic buildings dating back to the 1700s, many of them made from wood. The physical infrastructure of the community has been nearly destroyed.

On Sept. 18, the list of fatalities was decreased from 115 to 97, and the number of missing decreased from 41 to 31. Officials realized they had multiple samples of the same DNA, as remains were often found together. They suspect that while the fire approached, people huddled together with their family and pets, so separating and identifying people has been challenging. Officials say the number may still rise.

As of Sept. 19, 74 people who died have been identified. The ages range from 7 to 97 years old, with 51 people aged 65 or older.

This is the deadliest fire in the U.S. since the 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise, California. In miraculous news, a home that had been cut off from communications was found to be sheltering 60 survivors, more than a week after the Lahaina fire.

Governor Josh Green estimated that the structural damage costs will be in the billions. Including Hawaii, there have been at least 23 billion-dollar disasters in the U.S. as of the end of August 2023. Estimated insured losses have exceeded $5 billion. This is only a fraction of the losses as many people were not insured, and others – like loss of life and sacred spaces – cannot be quantified.

At least 2,207 buildings have been damaged or destroyed; 86% of these were residential.

On Maui, in addition to the Lahaina fire (90% containment and 2,170 acres), there were also fires in Pulehu/Kihei and Upcountry Maui.

As of Aug. 22, at least 19 homes and dozens of other structures were destroyed in the Upcountry/Kila wildfire (16 in Kila and three in Olinda), and many other homes were damaged.

According to The Guardian, “The fires in Hawaii are unlike many of those burning in the western US. They tend to break out in large grasslands on the dry sides of the islands and are generally much smaller than mainland fires. Fires were rare in Hawaii and on other tropical islands before humans arrived and ecosystems evolved without them, which means that great environmental damage can occur when fires erupt. Fires remove vegetation. When a fire is followed by heavy rainfall, the rain can carry loose soil into the ocean, where it can smother coral reefs.”

You can support CDP’s response to the wildfires by donating to our Hawaii Wildfires Recovery Fund.

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As of Sept. 21, fire officials are tracking 365 smaller fires burning in Alaska.


Editor’s note: In California, we usually focus on fires that exceed 50,000 acres.

The atmospheric rivers, heavy rains, flooding and increased snowpack reduced the severity of early fires in California this year. As of Sept. 21, California has had 5,474 wildfires, with a total of 257,407 acres burned.

There have been three firefighter fatalities, one civilian fatality, nine structures damaged and 33 structures reported destroyed. The three firefighters died on Aug. 6 after two helicopters collided while fighting a fire in Cabazon, California. A 71-year-old man was found deceased in the driveway of his home on Aug. 18 in the Head Fire.

There are a few individual fires and fire complexes burning in Northern California. The largest – the Smith River Complex – shares a border with Oregon and is described under that write-up. The smoke from the wildfires in these two states is affecting the air quality in the Bay Area.

SRF Lightning Complex and Redwood Lightning Complex combined two fire complexes. According to InciWeb, “On the evening of August 17, the Six Rivers National Forest and Redwood National and State Parks received 150 lighting strikes across the area spanning almost 1 million acres. After the significant lightning event there were 27 confirmed fires. The largest fires on the Six Rivers National Forest include the Pearch, Mosquito, Bluff #1, Blue Creek #2, Marlow and Copper.”

Only 7% of the perimeter has been contained. There are currently 14 fires burning in the complex, ranging from 0.1 acres to 8,304.56 acres, for a total of 30,564 acres.

You can support CDP’s response to the wildfires by donating to our California Wildfires Recovery Fund.

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In Louisiana, nearly 550 wildfires burned in the month of August alone, and fires have been an ongoing concern in the month of September, but rain early in the month helped improve control. Governor John Bel Edwards issued a state emergency declaration (141 JBE 2023) related to the coinciding impacts of drought, extreme heat and wildfires.

There are three significant fires burning in Louisiana as of Sept. 21, but they are mostly contained. The high pre-existing level of drought and potential heat through early fall means fire risk still exists.

According to a local NBC TV channel KPLC, “Over two-thirds of Louisiana is experiencing exceptional or extreme drought, and this is not expected to change over the coming weeks. An additional 12 to 15 inches of rain over a period of weeks is needed to correct the current drought.”

Tiger Island Fire: The Tiger Island Fire has been burning since Aug. 24 in Beauregard Parish near Deridder, Merryville and Singer. It currently has burned 31,290 acres and has reached 84% containment. It doubled in size from Aug. 25 to Aug. 27 and is the largest wildfire in Louisiana’s history. There have been almost 30 structures lost, including at least six homes, and two people have died. While the primary fuels are pine plantations, creeks and swamps make access difficult for firefighters. Additionally, there is oil and gas infrastructure, private homes and “heavy residual fuels as a result of Hurricane Laura in 2020 exist and contribute to extreme fire behavior and resistance to control.” At one point, more than 3,700 people were evacuated, although some have been allowed to return home.


There are 25 active fires in Montana (1,518 for the year) as of Sept. 21. So far, 116,266 acres have burned. These are the significant fires as of Sept. 21:

The East Fork Fire is burning 12 miles south of Trego, in the Kootenai and Flathead National Forests of Montana. The fire, which lightning sparked on July 30, has reached 5,259 acres and has 75% containment.

The River Road East fire was reported on Aug. 18 in the Lolo National Forest near Paradise, Montana. Due to high winds, there was rapid spread of the fire. It has reached  17,313 acres with 59% containment. Several structures are at risk, and at least 55 structures, including 15 primary homes, have been burned in the fire.


This year, there have been 42,689 fires in Oregon, burning a total of 2.2 million acres.

There are currently 34 active fires that have burned almost 126,000 acres. Many of the fires have significant containment.

Oregon is at Preparedness Level 4,” This level involves three or more geographic areas experiencing large, complex wildfires requiring IMTs [Incident Management Teams]. Geographic areas are competing for wildland fire suppression resources and about 60 percent of the country’s IMTs and wildland firefighting personnel are committed to wildland fire incidents.”

The fires in Oregon and Northern California are affecting the air quality in the Bay Area. The Flat Fire burned 34,242 acres and is 75% contained. It injured 31 people and destroyed two non-residential structures. The Bedrock Fire burned 31,590 acres, including one home and three other structures. It injured 18 people. It has 98% containment.

The Anvil Fire, discovered Aug. 25, has burned 15,755 acres with no containment or determined cause as of Sept. 21. It has injured eight people, but there are no deaths or structure damage. The fire is burning in the Grassy Knob Wilderness on Anvil Mountain and is east of Port Orford by 7.5 miles. There is very active fire behavior that includes”short runs through tree crowns and up hills, and long-range spotting (embers carried by wind away from the main fire to start new small fires).” Firefighters are working to protect residences, and evacuations are in place.

The Lookout Fire is a lightning-caused fire burning in the Willamette National Forest. It has burned 25,640 acres and has 50% containment. All evacuations have been changed to a “Be Ready” status, meaning residents can return home but should be prepared to leave if needed. There have been 21 injuries but no fatalities or structure damage.

The Smith River Complex is burning on the Oregon-California border in the Six Rivers National Forest. It has reached 93,559 acres and has 76% containment. The fire started on Aug. 15, after there were 150 lightning strikes in one night, starting 27 fires, 12 of which were included in the complex. Currently, the fire is being managed by Northwest Incident Management Team 8. There is very limited access due to the rugged terrain. The firefighting activities have produced heavy smoke at times.


There are dozens of fires and dozens more hot spots visible on satellite that may also be wildfires currently burning. Two of the fires have left two dead, hundreds of buildings damaged or destroyed, and thousands of people evacuated. At least 185 structures were destroyed in The Gray Fire.

The Sourdough Fire started on July 29 and has burned 6,369 as of Sept. 21 with 25% containment. It is located near Diablo, 7 miles northeast of Newhalem, in the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, within the North Cascades National Park Service Complex. The fire is burning in very steep terrain, which makes it difficult to fight. Most of the growth is in very remote areas. There will be no change in containment until there is a “season ending event” such as heavy rains or snow. Homes and other structures have containment perimeters around them.


Firefighters have helped in Canada from several countries, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, France, South Africa and Costa Rica.

On June 27, Canada surpassed the record set in 1989 for the total area burned in one wildfire season. Record heat is affecting even the typically cooler northern territories.

According to the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, Canada’s wildfires released 360 million tons (327 million metric tons) of carbon into the atmosphere as of Aug. 23. Of that, just over 106 million tons (97 metric tons) came from the Northwest Territories alone, which is 277 times more than humans caused in 2021.

In September, the CIFFC decreased to Preparedness Level 4, the second-highest level, as changing weather, including rain and cooling temperatures, reduced the number of incidents across provinces and territories in Canada.

That said, as of Sept. 21, 2023, the CIFFC has reported 6,371 fires in the year-to-date and 43.5  million acres burned. CIFFC statistics showed 908 active fires, with 522 out of control, 184 being held and 202 under control. The amount that has burned so far this year is about 4% of Canada’s forests. Annually, the world loses 17.3 million acres to deforestation, so Canada’s fires alone account for more than double that typical loss.

Six people have died so far this year. Two of the deaths were civilians: a 9-year-old boy in British Columbia whose asthma was exacerbated by the smoke and a hospitalized patient who died during the Yellowknife evacuation. The hospital said his death was “expected.” Four of the fatalities were among people engaged in firefighting activities.

On July 13, 19-year-old nursing student Devyn Gale was trapped under a tree while fighting a wildland fire in British Columbia. Adam Yeadon, a 25-year-old firefighter in the Northwest Territories, was killed fighting a small fire near Fort Liard. On July 20, a 41-year-old helicopter pilot delivering water to the fire died after his helicopter collided with the ground. On July 28, a 25-year-old firefighter from Ontario died in northern British Columbia while fighting the largest fire in the province’s history.

Over the course of the fires, nearly 200,000 people were evacuated for some length of time.

Alberta, Canada

In Alberta, there are 84 active fires, and there have already been more than 1,022 fires in 2023, as of Sept. 21. Of the active fires, 3.57% were out of control.

In the Sept. 18 “Wildfires of Note” from the Government of Alberta, there were only two wildfires of note, meaning a wildfire that is highly visible or poses a potential threat to public safety.

The Basset Complex is composed of three wildfires that are being managed together. The largest is 242,000 acres and is 31 miles south of High River.

The Wood Buffalo Complex is composed of two large fires on the border of Alberta and the Northwest Territories. It is being managed by three agencies: Alberta Wildfire, Parks Canada and the Northwest Territories, working together under Unified Command.

Wood Buffalo complex is currently 1.21 million acres. It is located approximately 2.5 south of Fort Smith, NWT and 3.7 miles south of Fort Fitzgerald, AB.

British Columbia, Canada

British Columbia has seen 2,220 fires in 2023, and 387 fires were active as of Sept. 21, with 143 of those considered out of control. Most of the active fires (314) were caused by lightning. There were 11 fires of note, which are fires that are “highly visible or poses a potential threat to public safety.”

Wildfires have already burned a record amount of land (6.12 million acres) in the province, nearly doubling the previous record set in 2018 (3.35 million acres).

The largest-ever fire in British Columbia, the Donnie Creek Blaze, burned an area larger than Prince Edward Island. It is burning on the traditional territory of the Blueberry River, Prophet River and Doig River First Nations. The fire has burned traplines, important ceremonial landmarks, massive amounts of timber, blueberries and other berries, and habitat for deer, bison and moose. This will cause significant disruptions to Indigenous communities and the lumber and milling industries. The fire burned about 1.4 million acres or 2,200 square miles, and is still burning. It may temper over the winter and then reemerge in the spring.

On Aug. 17, residents of West Kelowna were ordered to evacuate as the McDougall Creek Fire jumped the creek, putting numerous homes at risk. Kelowna is a popular tourist destination in the Okanagan region, about 180 miles east of Vancouver. The fire grew one hundredfold in 24 hours, leading the Premier to issue a state of emergency on Friday, Aug. 18. About 34,521 acres had burned as of Sept. 21.  At least 189 properties in the region were damaged or destroyed. The historic Lake Okanagan Resort, a popular tourist destination, was also destroyed.

On Aug. 18, the Lower East Adams Lake fire merged with the Bush Creek East wildfire burning in B.C.’s Shuswap region. Over 112,000 acres have burned as of Sept 21. A rapid damage assessment carried out in safe areas on Aug. 25, has found that the fire destroyed 131 structures and damaged 37 more. This includes 31 homes in the First Nations Skwlāx te Secwepemcúl̓ecw community in North Shuswap.

There are several evacuation orders still in place and many large wildfires continue to burn across the province.

Northwest Territories (NWT)

In Canada’s far north, there are 121 active fires and 296 for the full year. NWT has a population of only 45,000 people. Two-thirds of this northern, near-Arctic territory was displaced by wildfires at least once this summer, including the territory’s capital city, Yellowknife, home to 20,000 people. All evacuees except those from Enterprise have been allowed to return home. Almost 100 million acres have burned in total.

Some of the biggest fires are in the South Slave region, where 42 active fires are currently burning 4.08 million acres. The largest of these is the Wood Buffalo Complex fire discussed under Alberta. The second largest is the Hay River/K’átł’odeeche/Kakisa Fire which had burned 1.24 million acres as of Sept. 20. On Aug. 26, the fire became so severe that even firefighters and essential personnel were added to the list of the 4,000 residents who had evacuated the area on Aug. 13. However, the next day the mayor said only a nearby cabin and travel trailer were burned.

Evacuations have been lifted. It is estimated that the fires will continue to burn until heavy snow falls this winter. There is still extremely active fire activity and the fire is considered out of control. There was significant damage in  Hamlet of Enterprise, Patterson Road and Paradise Gardens. About 90% of Enterprise, home to 120 people, is gone. This includes one of the only gas stations in the southern part of the NWT.

In the North Slave region there are 35 fires burning 2.7 million acres. The largest of these is the Behchoko/Yellowknife fire which was almost 436,000 acres on Sept 21. The fire is now being held and residents were allowed to return to the city.

Quebec, Canada

As of Sept. 21, the province had reported 684 fires to date. The 10-year average to date in Quebec is 414.

There are 13 active fires, with the smallest at 1.1 acres and the largest at 3.06 million acres.

Over 13 million acres of land have burned, compared to the 10-year average of 39,407 acres.

There are several areas of ongoing support that are needed in the recovery phase. These include rebuilding homes or repair of damage, debris clean-up, soil remediation, temporary housing, physical and mental health, agricultural support, and livelihood/income support.

Funders should also consider the following options to support fire-impacted communities now and to reduce the impact of future fires.

Hawaii recovery

Lahaina is particularly important for Hawaiians as a cultural and political center. It was the capital city from 1820 to 1945 and the royal residence of King Kamehameha III, the king who unified Hawaii. Many kings and queens are buried in the Wainee Church (Waiola). The church is 200 years old and made of stone, but it was pictured in flames this week.

Lahaina also hosts much of the economic engine of western Maui. Lahaina’s historic Front Street, home to bars, stores, restaurants and the largest banyan tree in the U.S., was ravished by fire. According to the Maui Economic Development Board, “tourism is the economic engine of Maui” with 80% of the economy (or $4 out of $5 generated) coming from tourism. Tourism makes up 75% of private sector jobs and 51% of all jobs on the island. And while service industry jobs top the list of highest annual salaries, they have also failed to keep up with rising costs of living. Additionally, tourism jobs can be unstable – as COVID-19 showed – and seasonal.

Investors and developers have already reached out to residents who lost their homes with offers to buy. This is a common occurrence after disasters, which creates a risk of post-disaster gentrification. Fast cash may be attractive for those who do not have insurance. Because housing is often multigenerational and passed down from generation to generation, there may no longer be a mortgage and therefore no requirement for insurance.

Some residents of Lahaina have reported receiving predatory, unsolicited purchase offers for their land. Governor Josh Green signed an emergency proclamation making it illegal to solicit people to buy their land in ZIP codes 96761, 96767 and 96790.

On Aug. 19, Nā ʻOhana o Lele, a coalition of community members in Lahaina, released a statement calling on Governor Josh Green to meet three demands for the town’s recovery, including giving the community time to grieve, putting the community first in any planning process and amending the Emergency Proclamation to ensure that Chapter 92 Sunshine Law remains in full force.

In Hawaii, the nature of an island recovery is going to present a challenge, one exacerbated by the unique aspects of wildfire recovery. Anything brought onto an island must be shipped by air or water, increasing costs. There is only one major port, which is located in Honolulu. From there, shipping containers are loaded onto smaller ships owned by one of the two companies available to ship within the islands. The Maui port is unable to receive large ships from the mainland.

Trash or debris may need to be shipped off the island, or space must be made on the island to store/remediate it. This can be incredibly costly and time-consuming. After Hurricane Katrina, 30 years of garbage/debris was generated. While Maui has a smaller footprint, being an island will make remediation more challenging.

Following Hurricane Dorian in Okracoke, North Carolina, it took several months for debris to be cleaned up and removed from the streets. An article published five months after the storm stated: “Debris from roughly 300 ruined homes and businesses has totaled more than 54,000 cubic yards. A dump truck hauls about 10 cubic yards depending on the load. So far, 2,801 appliances including refrigerators and washing machines have been hauled away.”

In the first six months after Dorian hit the Bahamas, debris removal had costs $20 million and there was not a comprehensive waste management plan in place.

After a fire that burned homes, vehicles, appliances, etc., there is a need to remediate the soil from toxins. This can take several months; it took upwards of a year after the Paradise Camp Fire in 2018. This means that people may not be able to get back to access their properties (except to look for belongings) for months or more.

Additionally, housing in Hawaii was already expensive and in short supply. People will need to be housed until homes are repaired, and some of that will likely need to happen off-island. Housing in Hawaii looks different than in many other places, with multigenerational families all sharing one home, sometimes numbering over two dozen people.

The ecology of the island will also need to be considered. The island is, and has been, a very environmentally sensitive place for years. With risks from rising sea level, rebuilding needs to consider protection from weather and sea rise. It should also explore how to rebuild with fire-resilient materials and include native plantings.

Given the number of deaths, mental health and trauma support will be a significant need for many years to come.

Award loans and grants for rebuilding damaged homes and businesses.
In the U.S. there is currently a $2 million cap on disaster loans for businesses or private and nonprofit organizations through the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. That amount may not cover what is needed, and monies allocated may be slow to arrive. Companies often hire migrant workers to work on rebuilding projects, and they do not always provide safe and adequate housing, food and other support. Make fair hiring practices a component of your grants.
Support local agencies on the ground throughout the disaster life cycle, especially those working with marginalized communities.

Those in already precarious situations — such as older adults, undocumented and mixed-status families, people with physical or mental health challenges, and people living in poverty — may find their circumstances worsened in the face of disaster.

Organizations working with at-risk populations must have plans in place to mitigate the disaster’s impacts. These organizations are better informed about local culture than outside entities and will be on the ground for years to come.

Fund drought mitigation efforts.

These may focus on sustainable agriculture, water conservation or land use. According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, an emerging area for research is land use patterns that “maintain the integrity of watersheds and that have a smaller paved footprint result in greater resilience in the face of drought.”

Invest in public awareness and educational campaigns as well as dissemination of promising practices in wildfire and drought mitigation.

Simple efforts such as clearing flammable materials from 100 feet around the house may help prevent property damage. Fires can also be started by misuse of equipment, such as grills, that can be averted with proper knowledge.

Assist businesses in developing business continuity and disaster recovery plans to reduce economic impact.

These plans should include contingencies for displaced workers, back up of data and alternate facilities for continuing operations in the event of property damage.

Consider the needs of volunteer fire departments.

As volunteers, they often lack the structural support of larger departments, and their resources may have been depleted during the wildfire.

Support the creation of “smart growth” efforts.

Smart growth efforts and smart planning can help mitigate wildfires or prevent them altogether.

Mental health

Mental health is always a significant issue following fires, especially those that include a massive loss of life. Funders can support organizations, particularly those that will be on the ground long-term, to provide mental health services to their communities for years to come. This should be broader than traditional therapists, as some ethnic or religious communities will want to ensure that they receive services that are culturally competent and supportive.

In Hawaii, traditional Hawaiian beliefs are different than those of Western cultures, so care will need to be provided by Native Hawaiian groups or organizations. Funders could also consider providing additional funding for shelters or services for people dealing with Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), and for rehab facilities or services for people with addictions. IPV and addiction issues often increase after disasters.

CDP’s California Wildfires Fund provided a grant to La Familia Sana, who created a mental health outreach and service provision program for the underserved Latinx residents in their service area.

CDP has specific funds for wildfire needs in California and Hawaii. In addition, our Disaster Recovery Fund provides support for wildfire-affected areas in the remainder of the United States, and our Global Recovery Fund provides support for Canada, Mexico and other countries.

Support Hawaii wildfire recovery

Contact CDP

Philanthropic contributions

If you would like to make a gift to our Hawaii Wildfires Recovery Fund, California Wildfires Recovery FundDisaster Recovery Fund or Global Recovery Fund, please contact development.

(Photo by Ross Stone on Unsplash)

Recovery updates

If you are a responding NGO or a donor, please send updates on how you are working on recovery from this disaster to

We welcome the republication of our content. Please credit the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Donor recommendations

If you are a donor looking for recommendations on how to support recovery from this disaster, please email

Note: If you are an individual who was affected by the disaster, we encourage you to contact your local 211 to see what resources are available in your community.

Philanthropic and government support

Through funding from Google and the CDP Disaster Recovery Fund, Seeding Sovereignty received a grant of $61,065 to provide community care and relief in the wake of traumatic wildfires in the Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous People of Color populations they serve in the wake of the New Mexico wildfires.

From the California Wildfires Recovery Fund:

  • CDP awarded a $200,000 grant to Northern Valley Catholic Social Service Inc. (NVCSS) to increase wildfire resilience levels, while reducing associated risks among vulnerable populations within the NVCSS service region.
  • CDP issued a $300,000 grant to Northern California Grantmakers (NCG) to expand their disaster resilience investment in the philanthropic sector. NCG is working with CDP to convene, educate, inform and help strategically direct philanthropic giving in light of state and local government investments in this area to support mitigation projects throughout the state to build a more prepared and resilient California.
  • CDP provided a $99,734 grant to Corazon Healdsburg (Scopa Has A Dream Inc.) to provide wildfire disaster preparedness and prevention training for clients. By providing emergency disaster kits and support for renters insurance as well, clients will be better able to face future wildfires and be more resilient.

From its now-closed Colorado Wildfires Recovery Fund, CDP issued a grant of $309,686 to Impact on Education. The grant allowed Impact on Education to expand its mental health advocate program at seven schools located in Louisville, Superior and Boulder County where the Marshall Fire devastated communities.

Several of the fires have received a FEMA Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) to assist in firefighting and response cost recovery.

President Joe Biden has issued a disaster declaration for Hawaii (DR-4724). It will support loans for businesses and grants for housing and repairs. Individual assistance has been approved for Maui County, and Public Assistance (Categories A and B) was approved for Maui and Hawaii counties.

As of Aug. 28, 4,099 Individual Assistance applications have been approved for a total commitment of $15.2million. Every family affected by the fire was scheduled to receive $700 in other needs assistance checks ($7.4 million of the total to date). However, many people on Maui have criticized this amount. As a community with high rents and a strong family structure, many people live in family housing with numbers as high as 10-30 people per household. By contrast, the Maui United Way has begun to issue $1,000 per adult who lived in the burned areas. This allows multiple adults living at one address to receive assistance, something that the FEMA process does not allow, as it addresses household assistance only.

Even with a large number of people in a household, the number of people registered for FEMA is very low, considering the amount of damage. There are rumors circulating in the community that signing up for FEMA (or even Red Cross assistance) means signing away the rights to your land and your home. While this is untrue, many people believe it. There are also extensive conspiracies stating that the fires were set deliberately. These theories feed into fears of a land grab.

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, U.S. Fire Administrator Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell and U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman visited Maui to assess the damages and to determine how FEMA and the federal family of agencies could assist.

President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden visited Maui on Aug. 21. The president said, “We’re focused on what’s next — that’s rebuilding the long-term — rebuilding for long-term — and doing it together to help get us back on our feet,” the president said. “To rebuild the way we want to rebuild, by making sure your voices are heard, but respecting your traditions, by understanding the deep history and meaning of this sacred ground, and establishing your community not to change its character, but to reestablish it.”

Additional Federal, State and Voluntary Actions (from FEMA)

  • “The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service approved Hawaii’s request for impacted Child Nutrition Programs and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
  • American Red Cross and Maui County continue to staff and support six shelters where food, water, hygiene kits and other essential resources are provided to survivors who are unable to return home. FEMA survivor assistance specialists are located at the shelters helping people register for federal assistance. Those affected by the fires may visit a Red Cross shelter to get a hot meal, charge their phone and access other essential support. Red Cross and the state are moving people into hotels and out of shelters as fast as possible.
  • Local and national Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOADs) are providing emergency assistance to survivors. Those seeking to donate to the recovery efforts, can do so by visiting
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is helping clear roads, stabilizing electric service and working with the Environmental Protection Agency on the removal of hazardous waste essential to recovery work in the affected areas.
  • As fire containment efforts continue, FEMA continues response efforts. This includes search and rescue operations, including canine search teams. In addition, 17 specialists from the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team are on Maui, with additional teams enroute to assist the state.”

On Aug. 21, Heather Cox Richardson summarized federal activations in addition to FEMA, saying:

“The Small Business Administration had begun making low-interest federal disaster loans available to Hawaii businesses and nonprofit organizations. The Department of Agriculture approved Hawaii’s request for extra Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra declared a public health emergency retroactive to August 8, which gave Medicare and Medicaid greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs for beneficiaries, then deployed disaster response personnel to Hawaii.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was on the island clearing roads, stabilizing the electrical grid and working with the Environmental Protection Agency to remove hazardous waste. The U.S. Forest Service Incident Management Teams and Wildfire Liaisons worked with state officials to put the fires out and prevent flare ups, while the U.S. Fire Administration was working to support local firefighters. The Department of Defense was moving supplies across the state.”

More ways to help

As with most disasters, experts recommend cash donations. They allow on-the-ground agencies to direct funds to the most significant area of need, support economic recovery and ensure donation management does not detract from disaster recovery needs.

CDP has also created a list of suggestions for foundations to consider related to disaster giving. These include:

  • Take the long view: Even while focusing on immediate needs, remember that it will take some time for the full range of needs to emerge. Be patient in planning for disaster funding. Recovery will take a long time and funding will be needed throughout.
  • Recognize there are places private philanthropy can help that government agencies might not:Private funders have opportunities to develop innovative solutions to help prevent or mitigate future disasters that the government cannot execute.
  • All funders are disaster philanthropists:Even if your organization does not work in a particular geographic area or fund immediate relief efforts, you can look for ways to tie disaster funding into your existing mission. If you focus on education, health, children or vulnerable populations, disasters present prime funding opportunities.
  • Ask the experts: If you are considering supporting an organization that is positioned to work in an affected area, do some research. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy and National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters can provide resources and guidance about organizations working in affected communities within the U.S. Local community foundations also have insights into nongovernmental organizations that are best suited to respond in a particular community. The Council on Foundations
    summarized resources available to guide philanthropy following the wildfires in Hawaii, including resources from CDP.


See them all



Weather can significantly affect the frequency and severity of wildfires. Prolonged drought can extend prime wildfire season, making blazes more likely. Additionally, high temperatures and low humidity can quickly dry out vegetation which then becomes potential fuel.



Drought is often defined as an unusual period of drier than normal weather that leads to a water shortage. Drought causes more deaths and displaces more people than any other disaster.

Extreme Heat

Extreme Heat

While the average temperature continues to increase at a moderate pace, climate change has caused more frequent extreme weather events, particularly extreme heat.


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