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Be Like LeBron James: Responding to the Getty Fire

(“Be Like Lebron James: Responding to the Getty Fire is a guest post from one of our editors, Caroline Ailanthus)

The Monday before Halloween, strong winds broke a branch off a eucalyptus tree in LA and sent it flying 25 feet into power lines. The resulting spark ignited the Getty Fire, prompting the evacuation of 10,000 homes.

One of those homes belonged to LeBron James.

I find this story very poignant. Because I don’t care how good you are at what you do, how much money you have, or how famous you are, when you get an evacuation order, when you have to pack up your family and run because there’s fire behind you, everybody’s the same—terrified.

Of course, after you get out and get somewhere safe, who you are and what your situation is matters a lot. Disasters affect the poor and disenfranchised a lot more; they are more likely to lose everything, less able to rebuild afterward. Only 25 homes were damaged or destroyed in the Getty fire, and LeBron’s wasn’t one of them, but even if it had been, he and his family would have been OK.

But having the resources to help yourself also means having the resources to help others. LeBron James famously enjoys sharing a few tacos on Tuesdays, and so that Tuesday, the day after the fire began, he hired a taco truck to go serve the fire fighters and other first responders so they could have a free, hot meal as they battled the flames.

This is not the first time we’ve shone a light on sports stars for doing the right thing, but right now is not the time to admire LeBron—it’s time to imitate him.

The Getty Fire is mostly contained, now, and if the weather holds it should be out fairly soon, but the Getty Fire was the fourth biggest fire in the LA area in October, plus there were others in surrounding areas, like Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks. November could bring more fires, if dry, windy conditions flare up again. That’s a lot of people whose lives were disrupted, a lot of people who need help.

Maybe you, too, can send a food truck. Maybe you can’t—but you can do other things. As I explained in an earlier post, business people especially often have lots of important resources to offer in time of disaster, from needed supplies or financial donations to your own networking and organizational abilities. And you don’t need to be anywhere near the disaster in question.

Here are some places (by no means an exhaustive list) that are involved in responding to the fires even in the aftermath:

  • The Red Cross runs shelters for evacuees.
  • The SAVE Program provides prepaid gift cards to firefighters, who can then pass those cards on to the fire victims they meet. It’s not a lot of money per card, but for a family that just lost everything, a few hundred bucks for basic supplies means a lot. Learn more.
  • Sonoma County, which is also on fire again, has a program to help with long-term fire recovery, because even after the danger is past and the evacuation orders are lifted, a lot of people still need help—and will for a long time. Learn more. In the LA area, the United Way has a similar program.
  • Fire departments take private donations. Just look up the fire department of the area you’re concerned about and ask them what they need.

Humans are not the only ones who suffer in big fires. The Los Angeles Animal Care Foundation uses mobile trailers as shelters for animals whose people are staying at evacuation centers (which typically do not allow pets). Since some people will not evacuate if their animals aren’t safe, this program can save human lives, too. Click here to learn more. The Gentle Barn has a program that evacuates and houses large domestic animals, like horses, if necessary driving into areas already on fire to get animals out. The California Wildlife Center treats, rehabilitates, and releases injured wildlife.